Child Abuse

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to parent a child. Families use different parenting styles to raise their children into functional adults for today’s society. While some parents avoid discipline, others find it to be useful to teach their children how to survive in the world. However, sometimes parents who are simply disciplining their child are accused of abuse. If they’re charged with child abuse, these parents could potentially lose custody of their child and have to face a jail or prison sentence for months or even years.

Child abuse can be filed as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the facts of the case. If you’re charged with felony child abuse, you could be facing up to 6 years in prison. Misdemeanor child abuse isn’t much better with a maximum of 12 months in jail. With such steep penalties, it’s important you act quickly. If you’re facing allegations of child abuse, then we urge you to obtain legal representation as soon as possible.

Child Abuse Defense Attorney in Ventura, California

Child abuse allegations could tear apart your family and even impact your career. The best way to fight these accusations is to have experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel on your side such as the legal team at Jay Leiderman Law. Jay Leiderman has two decades of experience he can draw on for your case. He understands how sensitive these charges can be, which is why he treats every client he has with the utmost care and respect.

Call [Jay Leiderman Law to set up your first consultation at (805) 654-0200 free of charge. Jay Leiderman Law accepts clients throughout Ventura County and Santa Barbara County including Ventura, Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark, Simi Valley, Ojai, Oak Park, Port Hueneme, Somis, Fillmore, Santa Barbara, Solvang, Montecito, Goleta, Lompoc, Isla Vista, and Los Olivos.

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California Definition of Child Abuse

You often hear the term child abuse on TV dramas, but you might not know that under California law there is a specific definition for child abuse. Under the California Penal Code 273d, “child abuse” is defined as the willful infliction of one of the following on a child under the age of 18 during the time of the offense.

  • Cruel or inhuman corporal (bodily) punishment; or
  • The punishment and/or injury resulted in a traumatic physical condition; and

To completely understand the statute, you must know the definitions of certain terms. “Corporal punishment” in context to the statute simply means any physical punishment to the child. Corporal punishment, in itself, is not illegal under California law. Parents maintain the right to physically discipline their children as long as it doesn’t:

  • Cause external or internal injuries to the child. The external injuries would include marks lasting more than two hours after the child was disciplined.
  • The punishment doesn’t include harsh and cruel disciplinary measures or impulsively used discipline that would be considered “out-of-control” by a reasonable person. For instance, screaming profanities and hitting a child with a belt for a long period of time to the point they have welts is considered cruel and unnecessarily harsh.

Injuries that resulted in a “traumatic condition” are defined as any wound or bodily injury caused by direct application of physical force. The wound does not have to be serious for it to constitute as traumatic condition.

Examples of an injury resulting in a traumatic condition include:

  • Concussions
  • Broken bones
  • Internal bleeding

The specific elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a person of child abuse can be found below.

  • The defendant inflicted cruel or inhumane physical corporate punishment and/or injury on a minor under the age of 18; and
  • The punishment caused a traumatic physical condition; and
  • When the act occurred, the defendant was not reasonably disciplining the child.

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Examples of Child Abuse & Neglect in California

The statute for child abuse in California is vague, so child abuse can occur in various ways. It can include physical punishment such as hitting a child, and it can also include unreasonable disciplinary measures such as locking a child in a closet for a long period of time. Listed below are some examples of child abuse in California.

  • Kicking
  • Pushing
  • Hitting
  • Punching
  • Slapping
  • Burning
  • Choking
  • Purposefully withholding necessities as a punishment
  • Throwing objects at the child
  • Throwing the child

Child neglect, however, is different under California law than child abuse. A person is guilty of neglect if they failed to provide a necessity to the child and the failure to provide was willful and without any type of excuse. Listed below are some examples of child neglect.

  • Willfully and without a lawful excuse deprives a child of:
    • Food
    • Shelter
    • Water
    • Medical care or treatment
    • Remedial care

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What is Not Considered Child Abuse in California?

One of the biggest questions defense attorneys hear is “can spanking be considered child abuse?” The answer is no under certain conditions. Spanking is perfectly legal and acceptable way to discipline your child if it’s:

  • For a disciplinary purpose
  • Not excessive under the circumstances

It’s legal in California to spank a child with your bare hand or an appropriate object (such as a belt or paddle) if you meet these conditions. It’s important to keep in mind that spanking is a very controversial topic in California law. Although spanking isn’t illegal, society has changed a lot over the years and that may change in the future. It’s possible the jury may decide an instance of spanking is child abuse because it was excessive or wasn’t for a disciplinary reason.


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Child Abuse Penalty in California

Child abuse is considered to be a “wobbler” offense. That means the prosecutor has the discretion to classify the offense as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the facts. These decisions are heavily influenced by the circumstances of the offense and your current criminal history. Especially if you have prior evidence of child abuse or domestic violence.

Minor first offenses are usually charged as a misdemeanor in California. If convicted, you’ll face:

  • Up to 12 months in jail
  • A fine of up to $6,000

The prosecution may reclassify your offense to a felony if:

  • The injury to the child was gravely serious and in need of long-term care
  • You have one or more prior convictions for child abuse or another comparable offense
  • The act inflicted on the child was very cruel and inhumane

Felony child abuse can result in:

  • Up to 6 years in prison
  • A fine of up to $6,000

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Additional Resources

The Child Abuse Prevention Center | CAP Center – Visit the official website for the Child Abuse Prevention Center, which provides training, advocacy, and resources to those who want to protect children and build healthy boundaries. Access the site to learn more about the organization, statistics on child abuse, and peruse their resources.

California Child Abuse Statute – Visit the official website for the California Legislature to read up on their statutes for child abuse. Access the site to read the definitions related to the statute, penalties for child abuse, aggravating factors for those penalties, and more.


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Child Abuse & Neglect Attorney in Ventura County, CA

Have you been accused of child abuse? If so, then you must act quickly. Call Jay Leiderman Law to speak to Jay Leiderman, an experienced criminal defense attorney with two decades of trial practice under his belt. He can assess your charges and develop an effective defense plan for you.

Call Jay Leiderman Law now at (805) 654-0200 to set up your first consultation. We accept clients around the greater Ventura area including all areas in Ventura County, Santa Barbara County, and Van Nuys.


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