Parents, family members, guardians or caretakers of children are often alarmed or stunned that they are accused of child abuse or neglect in the Greater Houston area. Because of reporting requirements in Texas, law enforcement officers usually will investigate almost all reports of discipline or physical abuse, including slapping, hitting, spanking, kicking, beating, broken bones or any welts, bruises or marks on the child.
Although bruises and marks alone are insufficient evidence for a child abuse conviction, allegations of child neglect or abuse can result in serious consequences if the alleged abuser is convicted or placed on probation, including jail time, fines, irreparable harm to reputation, humiliation, loss of parental rights and/or a permanent criminal record.
Charges or accusations of child neglect or abuse do not have to result in a criminal conviction. To do so, each and every element of the offense has to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt by the state prosecutor. This burden of proof is very high and the State often has difficult in meeting it. If the jury has a reasonable doubt you committed every element of the offense, you will be found not guilty. If the State does not believe they can prove their case at trial, the State may offer to reduce the charges to a misdemeanor or even dismiss the charges outright. Therefore, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced criminal trial lawyer in the Greater Houston area who will investigate your case and suggest the best legal strategy to defend you.
Houston Child Abuse Lawyer
Contact James Sullivan & Associates for a consultation at (281) 546-6428 about your allegations of child abuse or child neglect through Texas.
What is Child Abuse in Houston?
Texas law defines abuse under Texas Family Code §261.001(1) as any of the following acts or omissions:
- Mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child's growth, development, or psychological functioning;
- Allowing a child to be in a situation where the child receives mental or emotional injury;
- Physical injury or threat of substantial harm to the child;
- Failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent the acts of another person that results in physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child;
- Sexual conduct harmful to a child’s emotional, mental or physical welfare including conduct that constitutes the offense of continuous sexual abuse of young child or children (Texas Penal Code §21.02), indecency with a child (TPC § 21.11) sexual assault (TPC §22.011) or aggravated sexual assault (TPC § 22.021);
- Failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct harmful to a child;
- Compelling or encouraging a child to engage in sexual conduct such as prostitution or pornography;
- Using a controlled substance by a person in a way that the use results in mental, emotional or physical injury to a child;
- Causing, allowing or encouraging a child to use a controlled substance; and/or
- Causing, allowing, encouraging, or engaging in a sexual performance by a child (TPC § 43.25).
What is Child Neglect in Houston?
Neglect is defined by TFC §261.001(4) as:
- Leaving a child in a situation where the child would be exposed to a substantial risk of physical or mental harm, without arranging for necessary care for the child, and the demonstration of an intent not to return by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator of the child;
- Placing a child in or failing to remove a child from a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgment or actions beyond the child's level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities and that results in bodily injury or a substantial risk of immediate harm or harmful sexual conduct;
- The failure to seek medical care for a child that results in a substantial risk of death, disfigurement or bodily injury or with the failure resulting in an observable and material impairment to the growth, development, or functioning of the child; and/or
- The failure to provide a child with food, clothing or shelter necessary to sustain the life or health of the child, excluding failure caused primarily by financial inability unless relief services had been offered and refused.
Houston Child Abuse Crimes
According to TPC § 22.04, an individual can be charged with child abuse, injury to a child or child neglect if they intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence cause a child:
- Serious bodily injury,
- Serious mental deficiency, impairment or injury, or
- Bodily injury.
An individual can also be charged with child abuse if they fail to act on behalf of or care for a child the alleged offender had a legal or statutory duty to act on behalf of or if they have assumed care for the child, such as parent or an owner of or an employee of a child day care.
Texas law defines as a child as anyone 14 years of age or younger, according to TPC § 22.04(c)(1).
Bodily injury is defined as any physical pain, illness or impairment of any physical condition, according to TPC § 1.07(a)(8) . Serious bodily injury is defined as any bodily injury that causes permanent impairment or loss of any body part or organ, substantial risk of death, or serious permanent disfigurement, according to TPC § 1.07(a)(46).
Houston Child Abuse Punishment
The possible punishments and penalties for child abuse offenses are defined in Chapter 12 of the Texas Penal Code. The degree of conviction and punishment varies depending on the alleged offender’s mental state and the degree of injury caused to the child as a result of the abuse or neglect.
An individual charged with a child abuse offense involving criminal negligence by the alleged offender can be convicted of a state jail felony. A state jail felony is punishable by 180 days to two years in jail and/or a fine up to $10,000.
An individual charged with a child abuse offense involving reckless actions by the alleged offender that resulted in bodily injury can be convicted of state jail felony. A state jail felony is punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and/or a jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years.
An individual charged with a child abuse offense involving intentional or knowing actions by the alleged offender that resulted in bodily injury can be convicted of a felony of the third degree. A felony of the third degree is punishable by two to ten years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
An individual charged with a child abuse offense involving reckless actions by the alleged offender that resulted in serious bodily injury or serious mental injury can be convicted of a felony of the second degree. A felony of the second degree is punishable by two to 20 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
An individual charged with a child abuse offense involving intentional or knowing actions by the alleged offender that resulted in serious mental injury or serious bodily injury can be convicted of a felony of the first degree. A felony of the first degree is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from five to 99 years and/or a fine not more than $10,000.
What are the Duty to Report Child Abuse Laws in Texas?
According to TFC §261.101, anyone who has reason to believe a child’s mental or physical health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect is required to make a report with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Additionally, anyone who is considered a child care professional is required to make the report within 48 hours. A professional in Texas is anyone who is licensed or certified by the state or is an employee of a facility licensed or certified by the state and has direct contact with children in the normal course of their job.
Child care professionals can include
- mental health practitioners,
- members of the clergy,
- reproductive service clinic or facility employees,
- juvenile probation officers,
- juvenile detention or correctional officers, and/or
- day-care employees.
Failure to make a report of child abuse or neglect as provided by Texas law can result in being charged with a misdemeanor or state jail felony offense.
James Sullivan & Associates | Houston Child Neglect Attorney
Contact James Sullivan & Associates for a free consultation at (281) 546-6428 about your allegations of child abuse or child neglect in the areas of Harris County (Houston), Montgomery County (Conroe), Fort Bend County (Richmond), Brazoria County (Angleton), Matagorda County (Bay City), Waller County (Hempstead), Washington County (Brenham), Liberty County (Liberty), Chambers County (Anahuac) and Jefferson County (Beaumont). James Sullivan is an experienced Houston family crimes lawyer who will work hard to get you the best result for your particular situation.