If you have been charged with a child abuse offense in Nevada, or if you think you may soon be so charged, it is in your best interests to waste no time in seeking out a top-tier criminal defense attorney with deep experience in this practice area.
At the Law Offices of Martin Hart, we understand how easy it is to be falsely accused of child abuse - and many are every year. We also understand Nevada's child abuse statute (NRS 200.508), and related relevant laws, down to the legal minutia and have deep experience in defending these types of cases in local Las Vegas, Clark County, and other Nevada courts.
We have helped many others win their child abuse defense case in Nevada, and we can do the same for you. Contact us anytime 24/7 by calling 702-380-4278, and we will give you a free legal consultation and give immediate attention to your case!
How Is "Child Abuse" Defined Legally in Nevada?
Under Nevada Revised Statutes Section 200.508, child abuse is criminalized and severely penalized. It is defined rather broadly, including five possible areas of abuse: physical, mental, sexual, neglect, or endangerment.
Willfully causing anyone under the age of 18 to suffer any of those 5 types of abuse is child abuse.
To be guilty of child abuse, you have to meet the standards of "general intent." That means you had to intend the action(s) that harmed the child. But child abuse is not a "specific intent" offense, so you don't have to have intended the harm itself, just the act that caused the harm.
In other words, accidents can't be child abuse. But if you engage "willfully" in behavior any reasonable person would know would likely harm a child, that's enough to make it count as child abuse.
Physical abuse against a child most often is some form of battery, such as a violent kick or punch, burning a child, strangulation, stabbing with a knife, or casting a heavy/dangerous object at a child. In this case, there will likely be identifiable bodily injury inflicted.
Note that reasonable corporal punishment is a part of parental disciplinary rights and is not child abuse.
Abuse Causing Death
If physical abuse of a child results in death, murder would be charged; and if it nearly results in death, attempted murder may sometimes be charged.
If a single act of abuse causes a child to die, only murder OR child abuse can be charged; but if two distinct acts of abuse were committed against a child and the child then dies as a result, BOTH murder and child abuse can be charged.
In the case of an infant being violently shaken (Shaken Baby Syndrome, or SBS), it can be charged as child abuse, murder, or attempted murder. As serious brain damage or death often results, this is a very serious charge.
If the death of an unborn child is caused by some form of physical abuse, it would normally be charged as manslaughter, at least, if the child was old enough that the mother felt its movements.
Child abuse under Nevada law can also be mental or emotional. Examples might be constantly verbally abusing a child and calling him or "worthless," "brainwashing" him or her into a radical, harmful ideology, or isolating a child from all social contacts and not allowing him/her to learn, play, or get an education.
It's more difficult for the prosecution to prove psychological abuse, but keep in mind that not all child abuse charges are for physical abuse.
Sex crimes against a minor are punished more severely in Nevada than the same acts against an adult since the perpetrator took advantage of the child's vulnerability.
Sexual abuse of a child can mean sexual assault (rape), incest, sexual lewdness, or even mutilation of female genitalia (even if part of "circumcision")
If one rapes a minor in Nevada, the charge can be sexual assault (which is Nevada's legal term for rape) or child abuse, but not both.
Also, exploiting children sexually, such as by using them as prostitutes to make money off of or to make child porn to sell and profit from is also a form of child abuse under Nevada law.
Child Neglect or Endangerment
Another form of child abuse is that of neglect. Abandoning a child or not providing proper food, clothing, shelter, medicine, or other necessary care when you are able to do so is to abuse a child by a lack of action.
Denying a child an education can also be considered a from of child neglect, as can refusing to get a child medical care during a medical emergency (regardless of religious beliefs).
Child neglect is never charged as murder instead, even if the child dies as a result - but the death of the child would add significantly to the sentence.
Child endangerment is different than neglect but it's still child abuse. Endangerment means placing a child in a dangerous situation, such as knowingly letting an abusive person baby sit him/her or letting the child play in a dangerous area.
Possible Penalties for Child Abuse
Child abuse, in the least serious and unaggravated cases, will still be prosecuted at least as a Gross Misdemeanor, which is punishable by a year in county jail and a fine as high as $2,000.
But there are many other factors that often enter and make a child abuse charge a felony, if the prosecution can establish these factors beyond all reasonable doubt.
For example, if the abuse was a willful act VS allowing someone else to do it, if serious harm was inflicted on the child, if the child was under age 14, if sex abuse occurred, or if it's a repeat offense, the sentence would likely be enhanced.
For willful abuse with substantial bodily/mental injury inflicted, child abuse is a Class B Felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in state prison. If the child also was under 14, then life with possible parole after 15 years is the penalty.
For willful child abuse, but without any substantial injury, it's a Class B Felony punishable by 1 to 6 years in prison. But for a repeat offense of this type, you can get 2 to 15 years in prison.
For "allowing" abuse (not "willful"), with substantial harm suffered by the child, it's a Class B Felony, punishable by 2 to 20 years in prison. If the child was under 14, it's a Class A Felony, punishable by life in prison with possible parole after 10 years.
For non-willful abuse but with substantial physical or mental harm inflicted, child abuse is charged a gross misdemeanor, punishable by 1 year in county jail and a fine of up to $2,000. But if it was a repeat offense, it's a Class C Felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Defenses Against a Nevada Child Abuse Charge
At the Law Offices of Martin Hart, we always fight first and foremost for a dismissal or an acquittal. But we also have well seasoned negotiation skills and know how to get a favorable plea, reducing the charge and sentence or getting probation in place of jail/prison time.
But we never go immediately into "plea mode," like some other law firms. We always take the time to do the hard research, gather evidence and witnesses, and build you the strongest possible case.
And we know how to challenge the evidence, argument, and witnesses the prosecution is relying on.
Each case is different, and we build your defense from the ground up, customizing it to the details of the case. But at the same time, there are some common basic defense types we often use and often win with for our clients. These include:
- Lack of Intent
If the element of intent is lacking, then it cannot have been child abuse. It was an accident. Accidents often happen that can result in physical injury or even the death of a child.
Note that it's not enough to say that the harmful results of an action were not intended. If the action itself was intentional, and it was such an act as a reasonable person would know could harm the child, then the "accident" defense won't work.
But also note that if a child injures him or her self accidentally, or if a parent or other adult accidentally injures the child - and regardless of how severe the harm done was, if there was not intent on the part of the defendant to commit a harmful act, then it's not child abuse.
Also, there may be some situations where a degree of negligence might exist, and yet, it's not enough to count as child abuse via neglect or child endangerment.
- No Harm Suffered
If no physical harm or significant and abusive psychological harm was suffered by the child, then it can't count as child abuse.
Many times, the prosecutor has difficulty in demonstrating that any harm occurred or that such harm resulted from an act or omission of the defendant. This is especially the case with "mental and emotional abuse" cases.
- Abusive Relative
If a parent leaves his or her child with a person known to be abusive, that can count as "non-willful" child abuse, which has lesser but still severe penalties.
But if the parent had no good reason to believe the child would be abused by that relative, and didn't know it had happened and so continued to take the child to see that relative - then it's not child abuse at all on the parent's part.
They can't be blamed for what they did not and could not have known.
- Parental Disciplinary Rights
If only "reasonable" methods of corporal punishment were used to discipline a child, then it's part of parental rights and not child abuse.
That can't excuse excessive punishments that cause bodily injuries and/or death. But many times, people are accused of child abuse for legitimate spanking or because neighbors heard a child screaming - which children often do even during normal, reasonable corporal punishment.
Older children, mostly older teenagers, are still minors but that doesn't mean they can't threaten or hurt other people. If the defendant had a reasonable belief of imminent physical harm from a minor, he/she is not guilty of child abuse for exercising self-defense.
However, you cannot use excessive force that went beyond defending yourself and attack to injure out of a spirit of revenge and have it still count as self-defense in Nevada. Only so much force as was necessary to avert the danger is allowed.
- False Accusation
It's not unheard of for children to lie or to even accuse an adult they are angry with of child abuse.
Sometimes, such accusations may be made just out of an over-active imagination, from mimicking what was seen on TV, or just to get attention.
- Good Faith Medical Treatment
First of all, if a parent did not know a child had a serious medical problem, he/she can't be guilty of child abuse for not taking the child to the doctor soon enough.
Also, if non-medical remedies are used, and they are "reasonable alternative" treatments and given in good faith, it's not child abuse just because harm ultimately resulted.
Contact Us Today for Assistance!
At the Law Offices of Martin Hart, we understand how damaging even the mere accusation of child abuse can be on one's reputation, and how severe the penalties for a child abuse conviction are under Nevada law.
Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorney knows how to build you a solid defense based on the specifics of your particular case and how to win the best possible outcome for each and every client - be that a dismissal, acquittal, or a reduced charge/sentence.
For a free, no obligation consultation, contact the Law Offices of Martin Hart 24/7/365 by calling 702-380-4278. We serve Las Vegas, Clark County, and all of the state of Nevada.