The penalties for child abuse in Texas can involve a prison sentence of up to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000. The penalty level you face after a conviction on a child abuse charge will depend on the type and severity of the abuse.
In Texas, it’s not only the person convicted of the child abuse that could receive jail time and fines – someone who fails to report suspected child abuse could also face significant penalties. These are serious charges, and you and your attorney need to develop an aggressive strategy for defending yourself.
What Is the Definition of Child Abuse?
According to Texas Family Code § 261.001, the definition of child abuse is something that results in mental or emotional injury to a child. Physical injuries fit under the definition of child abuse as well.
Should the child suffer impairment in their growth, development, or psychological functioning, this also constitutes child abuse. In addition, sex trafficking is an aspect of child abuse.
In general, any adult who should protect and care for the child’s well-being but fails to do so and instead causes harm could receive a child abuse charge.
What Is the Maximum Age for a Child Abuse Victim?
If you are facing potential penalties for a child abuse charge in Texas, this means the victim of the alleged abuse is 14 years old or younger. If the abuse charges involve a victim who is 15 or older, they may fit under general assault rather than child abuse.
However, if sexual abuse is a part of the child abuse charge, the definition of a child changes to anyone younger than 17 years of age.
Who Could Receive a Charge of Child Abuse?
Someone who frequently spends time around or takes care of children would have a greater chance of ending up involved in a child abuse case, such as:
- Foster parents
- Adult relatives of the child
- Older siblings of the child
- Dating partners of the parents
- Personnel at school
- Childcare personnel
- Clergy members
- Sports coaches
- Medical personnel
Specific Penalties for Child Abuse Charges
Child abuse penalties depend on whether the defendant faces misdemeanor or felony charges.
Misdemeanor Child Abuse Penalties in Texas
Some cases of child abuse in Texas will result in misdemeanor charges against the alleged abuser. For a misdemeanor charge, the abuse likely will not involve physical assault. Additionally, someone may receive a misdemeanor charge if the abuse was not intentional.
Misdemeanor charges in Texas generally involve a fine of a few thousand dollars or some jail time.
Felony Child Abuse Penalties in Texas
The prosecutor will consider the defendant’s intent when determining whether felony charges and penalties are appropriate in a particular case. They will also analyze the level of physical or emotional damage the child incurred. Based on these details, these are some of the felony charges related to child abuse:
- First degree: First-degree felonies in Texas have a potential prison sentence of 5 to 99 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- Second degree: A second-degree felony may carry a prison sentence between 2 and 20 years with a fine of up to $10,000.
- Third degree: A child abuse charge for a third-degree felony may carry a prison sentence of 2 to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
- State jail felony: In Texas, a state jail felony charge may carry jail time between 180 days and 2 years with a fine of up to $10,000.
Failure to Report Suspected Child Abuse
According to the Texas Office of the Attorney General, state law requires professionals who deal with children to report suspected child abuse within 48 hours of discovering it. Should the professional fail to make this report, they could receive a misdemeanor charge that may include a fine of up to $2,000 and jail time for up to 180 days.
In addition, professionals cannot simply notify a supervisor or the child’s parents of the abuse. Under Texas law, they must report the alleged abuse to law enforcement officials.
Our Attorneys Are Ready to Help with Your Defense in Texas
When you find yourself facing child abuse charges, you need to generate a strong defense as quickly as possible to protect your rights and reputation. Randall B. Isenberg spent more than 30 years as a former prosecutor and a state district judge, and he knows the serious nature of these charges.
Some accusations of child abuse may be false or less serious than they appear initially. Still, the authorities take these cases seriously, so you want to give yourself the best opportunity to defend yourself. Our child abuse defense lawyers are here to advocate for you. For a free consultation regarding your case, contact our firm as soon as possible at (214) 696-9253.