Philadelphia Child Abuse Defense Lawyer
If you are facing criminal charges relating to allegations of child abuse in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, we can help. Our experienced and understanding defense attorneys have successfully defended thousands of clients. We offer a complimentary 15-minute criminal defense strategy session to anyone who is facing criminal charges or may be under investigation. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with one of our award-winning defense attorneys today.
Allegations of child abuse are treated extremely seriously by the criminal justice system and may involve investigations by multiple different law enforcement and governmental agencies. For example, allegations of child abuse could be investigated by the police, DHS, CYS, and other state and local agencies. They could also involve federal authorities and the family court system. If you are facing allegations relating to child abuse, it is critical that you retain an experienced defense attorney with a wide range of experience providing representation with respect to these parallel investigations.
Criminal Charges in Child Abuse Cases
Criminal charges involving child abuse allegations can typically be broken down into three general categories of offenses. In general, child abuse involves either 1) neglect of children or failure to comply with a duty to care for a child, 2) acts of physical violence such as punching, kicking, dropping, or shaking a child, or 3) child molestation and engaging in sexual acts with a minor.
Pennsylvania and United States law prohibit a wide variety of conduct involving children. Potential criminal charges that you could face relating to child abuse under specific statutes may include the following:
- Corruption of a Minor
- Endangering the Welfare of a Child
- Statutory Sexual Assault
- Institutional Sexual Assault
- Recklessly Endangering Another Person
- Assault (Aggravated Assault and Simple Assault)
- Failure to Report Sexual Assault by a Mandated Reporter
- Protection from Abuse Petitions and Contempt of Court
- Transmission of Obscene or Sexual Content to a Minor
- Production, Possession, and Distribution of Child Pornography
Criminal charges could be brought due to a wide variety of conduct ranging from failure to provide adequate care, to failure to properly supervise and take care of children, to assault and sexual assault. The potential consequences vary depending on the allegations involved. However, child abuse charges are often extremely serious because of the public stigma attached and potential for serious incarceration and even Megan's Law registry in some cases involving sexual allegations.
Defenses to Child Abuse Charges
The first step in any child abuse case is to retain counsel. Once you have retained a defense attorney, your attorney can begin investigating the case. Child abuse cases require a thorough investigation of the allegations, and a strong defense may often involve hiring a private investigator to interview witnesses and obtain helpful evidence for the defense. Defending a case may involve negotiating with the authorities to show that abuse has not occurred or obtain a favorable resolution, or it may involve taking a case to trial before a judge or a jury. Some of the potential defenses in child abuse cases may include:
- Fabricated Allegations - In many cases, particularly in those involving messy family law and custody disputes between parents, allegations of child abuse may be fabricated by one parent in order to exact revenge against the other parents or obtain leverage in custody or divorce proceedings. In these cases, it is important to thoroughly investigate the case and potentially review transcripts from court proceedings, social media posts, and interview witnesses who may be able to provide insight into where the allegations are coming from. It may also be necessary to take this type of case to trial as allegations which were fabricated will often result in prosecution witnesses who have made inconsistent statements and may not be able to keep their stories straight. In some cases involving injuries to children, it may be possible to show that the injuries were caused by someone else other than the defendant even if abuse did occur.
- Expert Witnesses - Many child abuse cases involve accidental injuries to children which have been misconstrued by doctors as intentionally inflicted injuries. Even where parents or guardians are quick to obtain medical treatment for the child and forthcoming in explaining the cause of an accident, investigators may not believe the guardian, and overzealous or inexperienced doctors may argue that the injuries could not have occurred by accident. In these cases, it is important to have all of the information reviewed by the appropriate expert witness in order to determine whether there is an alternate explanation and whether the defendant's version of events could be correct. This is particularly true in "shaken baby" cases as much of the science surrounding shaken baby syndrome has increasingly been proven false in recent years. A persuasive expert report could convince the prosecution to drop the charges, or a doctor could convince a judge or jury that the prosecution cannot prove that the defendant intentionally inflicted the child's injuries beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Pre-Trial Motions - In many sexual assault cases involving young children, the prosecution seeks to shield their child witnesses from being required to testify using the Tender Years Act. The Tender Years Act potentially allows children under 12 to avoid testifying in court where the prosecution can show that requiring the child to testify would cause substantial emotional distress and that the child's previous statements are reliable. If the prosecution can make this showing, then the prosecution may introduce allegations of child molestation without ever calling the alleged victim to testify. Instead, the prosecution may be able to call only the adult to whom the complainant made the initial report of sexual assault. If the jury believes that adult, then the defendant could be convicted without ever having the opportunity to cross examine the actual complainant. In these cases, it is critical to challenge the admission of this hearsay testimony through the use of pre-trial motions. For example, well-litigated pre-trial motions may result in the complainant being required to testify. In some cases, it may be advisable to challenge the competency of a child witness to testify as witnesses cannot testify unless the court is satisfied that they understand their obligation to tell the truth and that the witness has the ability to properly recall the subject of the testimony.
- Each case is different, but it is always important to investigate the allegations thoroughly and fully understand the evidence against the defendant. There are often defenses to these horrible allegations.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers
If you are facing criminal charges, we can help. Our award-winning defense attorneys have extensive experience representing clients in criminal cases and Protection from Abuse hearings. We will thoroughly investigate your case, evaluate whether expert testimony may be necessary, and provide you with solid advice on the best way to defend against false allegations. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer today.