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Child Abuse

Our society puts the protection of children at the forefront of our minds. Our society takes seriously the protection of our children, and this area of the law has not fallen behind when it comes to keeping children safe from child abuse in the United States. Two specific cases of child abuse recently received national attention in the media. They also resulted in federal and North Carolina legislators in 2013 overhauling charges and penalties regarding children who are harmed, creating “Kilah’s Law” and “Caylee’s Law.”

Kilah’s and Caylee’s Laws

The first tragic case was that of 4-year-old Kilah Davenport. She suffered permanent brain damage because her step father beat her so badly. Kilah later died from her injuries. The second terrible case is that of Caylee Anthony, who disappeared and whose mother, Casey Anthony, did not report the disappearance to local authorities until nearly a month after the little girl was gone. Casey Anthony was charged with murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter in addition to four counts of making false statements to the authorities.

In response to the above child abuse cases, North Carolina legislators changed laws regarding children who are abused. Through Kilah’s Law, the state increased the punishment for most serious child abuse offenses. Through Caylee’s Law, the state created new criminal charges and added harsher language to previously existing charges so that the law also covers missing children.

North Carolina Law

As state law currently stands, a large variety of circumstances and fact patterns are covered. Because a detailed look at all the different types of child abuse would be too long, below is a brief overview of the most common child abuse charges in Monroe, Union County. Of note, society has changed with regard to what is appropriate when disciplining a child. What may have been normal or at least socially acceptable a few years ago may now form the factual basis for a child abuse case.

Under North Carolina law, a parent or person who is charged with supervising a child under the age of 16 who causes, allows, or creates a risk of physical injury to be inflicted on the child -- other than by accidental means -- has committed misdemeanor child abuse. Felony child abuse, according to state law, has several different variations including if the person or parent tasked with supervising or caring for a child under the age of 16:

  • Either purposely inflicts “serious physical injury” or assaults the child, causing “serious physical injury” -- a Class D felony;
  • Causes “serious bodily injury” or causes the child permanent loss or impairment of a “mental or emotional function” -- a Class B2 felony;
  • Acts or grossly negligent failure to act causes “serious bodily injury” and demonstrates reckless disregard for the child’s life, whether or not it caused a loss of impairment or function -- Class E felony;
  • Acts or grossly negligent failure to act results in only “serious physical injury” -- Class G felony;
  • Engages in, encourages, or allows the minor to engage in prostitution or to commit a sexual act - Class D felony.
Important Points

Beyond the above list of criminal charges, there are several specifics of North Carolina child abuse laws that you should understand.

The law distinguishes between serious “bodily” injury and serious “physical” injury and, as a result, it is one of the most contested issues that is litigated in Union County child abuse cases.

Caylee’s law made the failure to report the disappearance of a child under 16 for more than 24 hours a Class 1 felony and Class 1 misdemeanor. If a parent, or a person tasked with supervising the child, “knowingly or wantonly” failed to report the minor’s disappearance, he or she could be charged with a Class 1 felony. Alternatively, if anyone -- not just the parent or the person tasked with supervision of the minor -- fails to report a child is missing when there is a reasonable belief that the child has been gone for over 24 hours and may be in danger, he or she can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

North Carolina law also makes the contributing to a juvenile being undisciplined, delinquent, abused or neglected a Class 1 misdemeanor. This law’s protection includes children under the age of 18; depending on the facts, a person may be charged with abuse instead, or also charged with abuse. To form the basis of this allegation and a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, there need not be an actual adjudication that finds the child to be undisciplined, delinquent, abused or neglected. If a child could be adjudicated in this manner, you may be found guilty of this offense.

Help in Monroe Union County

Being charged with child abuse - or contributing to the delinquency of a child - can cause havoc in your daily life. If you or someone you know has been charged with child abuse or any variation under North Carolina law, contact the skilled criminal attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC.