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Published on 1/18/2023, 4:42:00 PM

I was charged with Child Abuse in Maryland. What do I do?

Being charged with child abuse in Maryland is a serious matter and can have severe consequences. It is important to understand the legal process and take the necessary steps to protect your rights.

This article will provide an overview of what offenses you may have been charged with, and some first steps to take after being charged with child abuse in Maryland.

Child Abuse Laws Generally

Maryland, like most other States, protects children from abuse with special criminal offenses. Child abuse in Maryland comes in two varying degrees. In addition to these special criminal offenses, many parents are also charged with simple misdemeanor assault in the second degree

First Degree Child Abuse

First Degree Child Abuse charges are the most severe form of child abuse prohibited by law in Maryland. Child abuse in the first degree is a felony criminal act defined as abuse that either:

  • results in the death of the minor; or

  • causes severe physical injury to a minor.

First Degree Child abuse carries some of the most severe criminal penalties in Maryland. A person is subjected to a maximum of twenty five years in prison. If a victim under 13 dies as a result of the conduct, the maximum penalty is life in prison.

If a death involves a child over 13 years old, the maximum penalty is forty years in prison.

If a person has a prior child abuse conviction, then they may face additional penalties by law.

What is a severe physical injury?

Severe Physical injury is defined by Maryland law as

  1. a brain injury or bleeding within the skull,

  2. starvation, or

  3. a physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death; or causes permanent or protracted serious: disfigurement, loss of the function of any bodily member or organ; or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

Second Degree Child Abuse

Second Degree Child Abuse is also a felony, and occurs when a family member or household member causes abuse to a child. Abuse is defined as a physical injury sustained by a minor as a result of cruel or inhumane treatment or as a result of a malicious act under circumstances that indicate that the minor's health or welfare is harmed or threatened by the treatment or act.

Second Degree child abuse carries a maximum penalty of up to fifteen years in prison if a person is concited.

Neglect of a Minor

While Child abuse charges punish physical acts of a parent or caretaker, neglect of a minor charges typically punish a lack of action by a parent or guardian.

Neglect means the intentional failure to provide necessary assistance and resources for the physical needs or mental health of a minor that creates a substantial risk of harm to the minor's physical health or a substantial risk of mental injury to the minor.

A parent or guardian cannot be punished for "neglect" when the primary reason for the neglect is due to poverty.

Neglect is a misdemeanor punishable by five years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

Sexual Abuse of a Minor

Sexual abuse of a minor occurs when a parent or other person who has custody of a child causes sexual abuse to that minor child.

Sexual abuse of a minor is a felony carries a maximum penalty of up to twenty five years in prison. It's important to note that the underlying sex offense can also carry an additional penalty, and these two offenses do not merge under the law into a single conviction.

The Five Most Important First Steps to take if you have Child Abuse Charges

1. Speak with a lawyer

If you believe that you are going to be- or already have been- charged with child abuse, it is of the upmost importance that you speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. You can discuss the charges and develop a defense strategy to handle initial appearance, warrant turn-ins, and dealing with police.

2. Hire an attorney that you trust

The next step is to hire a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling child abuse cases in Maryland. A good attorney will have knowledge of the laws and legal procedures in your state, and will be able to guide you through the process. They will also be able to advise you on the best course of action to take and help you understand your rights.

Finding a lawyer you trust may take time; however, most criminal lawyers will offer a free consultation to discuss your case with them.

3. Investigate possible witnesses and inconsistencies in the State's case

Child abuse cases can be complex, and they often involve allegations that are coming directly from a child. Children are often quick to inflate abuse allegations, or fabricate them entirely. A qualified criminal lawyer will explore the evidence in your case and can investigate the child and potential witnesses to contradict their story.

4. Consider Parenting Classes and/or Anger Management

It's never a bad idea to engage in parenting classes while pending a trial in a child abuse case. Many Courts will order a parenting class as a condition of a probation in a child neglect or child abuse case, and it can make the difference at the bargaining table if you've already completed one before a trial in your case.

5. Create a trial strategy

Every Defendant charged in a criminal case is entitled to face their accuser at trial. It would be a big mistake to head into a trial without creating a proper trial strategy. Once you've hired an attorney and understood the charges, it's time to decide how you plan to tackle your case. You and your attorney should discuss the potential for a plea negotiation or a trial.

Having this conversation early on in your case can make all the difference later when you'll need to make judgment calls on how to move forward.

Speak with a qualified criminal lawyer today

The attorneys with FrizWoods know exactly how to handle child abuse charges. Contact us today for a free consultation.