Usually, suspected child abuse is reported by an individual who interacts with the child, such as a teacher, doctor, babysitter, or family friend. In fact, some people who work professionally with children, such as teachers, are “mandatory reporters,” meaning that they are required by law to report any signs of potential child abuse. The suspected abuse is reported to the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) and law enforcement, which will then launch an investigation into the particular child's situation. The DCS often coordinates their efforts with law enforcement.
After the DCS completes their investigation, they will send a letter to the person involved in the allegations, telling them whether the claims were “substantiated” or “unsubstantiated.” If the claim is substantiated, it means that the DCS believes that there is evidence that the alleged abuse took place. This decision can be appealed, and the accused can request a copy of the DCS report. A child may or may not be removed from the care of their parents or guardians if they are seen to be in immediate, present, or ongoing danger. If the charges are particularly serious or if the evidence is substantial, law enforcement may arrest the individuals involved.
There are many different charges of child abuse that can be punished under the law, including:
- Physical abuse, such as cuts, bruises, broken bones, or burns
- Sexual abuse, including child pornography or sexual conduct with a minor
- Emotional abuse, usually observed through a psychologist's evaluation of a child for signs of depression, anxiety, or aggression stemming from treatment by an adult
- Neglect, such as when children are not given food, clothing, shelter, or care when they are ill or injured
- Abandonment, when a parent or guardian fails to provide supervision and reasonable support to a child for an extended period of time
If convicted of child abuse, the sentence will depend upon the type of abuse that the court determines. For example, if the court decides that the abuse could likely have resulted in death or serious injury of the child, longer sentences apply. In addition, sentences depend upon whether the alleged abuse was committed knowingly or intentionally, recklessly, or through criminal negligence. Repeat offenders are subject to increased penalties. These factors can also contribute to whether or not a child will be returned to their parent's custody.
Child Abuse Attorneys in Tucson, Arizona
Child abuse charges can be quite serious and overwhelming, and they require an immediate skilled defense to overcome. It is important to remember, however, that allegations of child abuse do not make you an abuser, and that people are reported for suspected child abuse frequently, even when no abuse is occurring, because of mandated reporting laws. If you are charged with a crime against a child, consider enlisting the help of an Arizona criminal law specialist who will fight aggressively to protect your rights and your freedom. To speak about your charges in confidence, call Sherick and Bleier, Arizona criminal defense lawyers, at (520) 318-3939 today or contact us online.