Child Abuse Charges & Vulnerable Adult Charges
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Child Abuse Charges in Arizona
In Arizona, child or vulnerable adult abuse allegations are serious and can negatively affect your life. Just being charged with child abuse can cause negative impacts even if you are not convicted of the offense. Child abuse accusations can cause you to lose your custody and visitation rights with your child and expose you to criminal penalties.
At Colburn Hintze Maletta, our experienced criminal defense attorneys understand how serious child abuse charges are. We are prepared to aggressively defend you against the allegations against you to secure the most favorable outcome possible.
What is Child Abuse or Vulnerable Adult Abuse in Arizona?
Arizona’s child abuse and vulnerable adult abuse law is found at ARS 13-3623. Under this law, you can be charged with child abuse or vulnerable adult abuse for engaging in several types of conduct involving a child or vulnerable adult.
A vulnerable adult includes any person who is an adult who is unable to protect himself or herself because of physical or mental impairment. You can also be charged with child abuse or vulnerable adult abuse if you cause injuries to the victim under circumstances that are likely to result in serious injuries or death.
You can also be charged with this crime if you allow a child or vulnerable adult in your care to suffer harm to his or her health or to be placed in danger of suffering serious injuries.
Some examples of the types of actions that could be considered to constitute abuse under this statute include the following:
- Abandonment or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult
- Causing injuries or allowing a child or vulnerable adult to be injured
- Sexual exploitation or conduct with a vulnerable adult or child
- Having children or vulnerable adults in an area where drugs are manufactured
- Unlawfully confining a child or vulnerable adult
- Placing a child or vulnerable adult in a situation that endangers their health
- Emotional abuse of a child or vulnerable adult
- Failing to provide adequate nutrition or water to a child or vulnerable adult
Child or vulnerable adult abuse can be broken down into two main categories.
Category One Child Abuse or Vulnerable Adult Abuse
Category one child abuse or vulnerable adult abuse offenses fall into this classification when you abuse a vulnerable adult or child in your care or custody or allow abuse to occur under circumstances likely to produce death or serious physical injury. You can also be charged if you cause a vulnerable adult or child to be placed in a dangerous situation in which their health or life is endangered.
Three levels of felony offenses can be charged for category one child or vulnerable adult abuse as follows:
- Class 2 felony – Intentional or knowing abuse
- Class 2 felony dangerous crime against children – Victim younger than 15
- Class 3 felony – Abuse caused by recklessness
- Class 4 felony – Abuse caused by criminal negligence
Category Two Child Abuse or Vulnerable Adult Abuse
Child or vulnerable adult abuse may fall into category two when the situation was unlikely to cause serious bodily injuries or death, however, the child or vulnerable adult still suffered or could have suffered harm.
Offenses in this category include the following levels:
- Intentional or knowing abuse – Class 4 felony
- Reckless abuse – Class 5 felony
- Criminally negligent abuse – Class 6 felony
Penalties for Child Abuse or Vulnerable Adult Abuse
The penalties for abuse differ depending on your criminal history and the specific type of child or vulnerable adult abuse that is alleged to have occurred.
If you are convicted of abusing a child younger than age 15 in a way that was likely to cause death or serious injuries, you will face the following penalties for this class 2 Dangerous Crime Against Children (DCAC) offense:
- First offense – 10 to 24 years of prison
- Second DCAC offense – 21 to 35 years in prison
- Third DCAC offense – up to life in prison
If the offense is a class 2 felony but not a DCAC, you will face the following penalties:
- First offense – Up to 1 year in jail with probation or 3 to 12.5 years in prison
- Second offense – From 4.5 up to 23 years in prison
- Third offense – From 10.5 up to 35 years in prison
If the conviction is for a class 3 felony, you will face the following penalties:
- First offense – Up to 1 year in jail with probation or from 2 to 8.75 years in prison
- Second offense – From 3.25 years up to 16.25 years in prison
- Third offense – From 7.5 to 25 years in prison
If the offense is a category one criminal negligence offense, it is a class 4 felony with the following penalties:
- First offense – Up to 1 year in jail with probation or 1 to 3.75 years in prison
- Second offense – From 2.25 years up to 7.5 years in prison
- Third offense – From 6 years up to 15 years in prison
If the child or vulnerable adult abuse conviction falls in category two, the penalties you will face will depend on your criminal history and the specific type of abuse that occurred. If the abuse was intentional and knowing, you will face the following penalties:
- First offense – Up to 1 year in jail with probation or from 1 to 3.75 years in prison
- Second offense- From 2.25 years up to 7.5 years in prison
- Third offense – From 6 years to 15 years in prison
If you are convicted of recklessly causing an injury without the potential for serious injury or death, it is a class five felony with the following potential penalties:
- First offense – Up to 1 year in jail with probation or prison from six months up to 2.5 years
- Second offense – From one to 3.75 years in prison
- Third offense – From three years up to 7.5 years in prison
If you are convicted of a class 6 felony involving criminal negligence, you will face the following penalties:
- First offense – Probation with up to one year in jail or prison from four months to two years
- Second offense – From nine months up to 2.75 years in prison
- Third offense – From 2.25 up to 5.75 years in prison
As you can see, child or vulnerable adult abuse charges are very serious. If you have been accused of committing one of these offenses, you should talk to the Arizona defense attorneys at Colburn Hintze Maletta as soon as possible.
Possible Defenses to Child Abuse or Vulnerable Adult Abuse Charges
As soon as you learn of the accusations against you, you should immediately retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney will then investigate your case and work to build the strongest possible defense.
The defenses that might be raised against the charges against you will depend on the circumstances of your case.
Some of the potential defenses that might be asserted include the following:
- You were falsely accused.
- The alleged victim’s injury was caused by something or someone
- You used reasonable discipline for your child.
- You used discipline that meets a religious exemption.
False accusations of child abuse sometimes occur during divorce and custody proceedings. A child might be manipulated and pressured by an adult to make false accusations. False accusations of vulnerable adult abuse also sometimes happen. This might occur when family members argue about guardianship matters. Under ARS 13-2907.04, falsely reporting vulnerable adult abuse is a class 1 misdemeanor.
If your defense attorney finds that the allegations against you are false, he or she might talk to the prosecutor about dismissing your charges and charging the person who made the accusations.
Children and vulnerable adults might also suffer injuries due to something unrelated to any abuse or neglect. For example, a child might fall from a bicycle, or a vulnerable adult might suffer bruising from an underlying medical condition instead of abuse.
Your attorney will carefully examine your case to identify all potential defenses and discuss the best approach to take in your defense.
Get Help from the Attorneys at Colburn Hintze Maletta
Child or vulnerable adult abuse charges can result in felony convictions and decades in prison. If you have been accused of one of these offenses, it is critical for you to get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
The attorneys at Colburn Hintze Maletta have successfully defended many people who have been accused of crimes and will work to secure the most favorable outcome to your case.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation by calling (602) 825-2500.
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