San Diego Child Abuse Lawyer
Child Abuse, Neglect, Cruelty & Sexual Molestation
In San Diego and across California, child abuse is defined as emotionally, physically, or sexually abusing or neglecting a minor by a parent or guardian. Further defined, any mental abuse or anguish imposed on a child, cruelty, or child exploitation is also charged as criminal child abuse. If you have been accused and/or arrested for committing child abuse, you need an aggressive and experienced San Diego child abuse attorney.
- How do you hire a child abuse lawyer if you can’t afford one?
- What are child abuse allegations in California?
- What to do if you are accused of child abuse in California?
- What not to do if you are suspected of child abuse
- How does the child abuse process work in California?
- What are the consequences of a California child abuse conviction?
- Who has a legal obligation to report child abuse?
How Do You Hire a Child Abuse Lawyer If You Can’t Afford One?
Child abuse allegations are serious and require experienced legal help to navigate. However, for some, find legal help can be difficult. The combination of legal fees, document costs, and potential time spent on the case can all quickly add up into an inaccessible amount. Fortunately, systems are in place that allow you to receive the legal support you need – without the same cost.
Legal aid offices are one such option. These not-for-profit organizations provide free legal help to those who cannot afford any. Just as private attorneys differ, one legal aid office may not offer the same services as another. However, many of these offices address child abuse issues, and you can receive their help so long as you meet whatever client qualifications they have in place.
If you do not qualify for legal aid assistance, you can also consult your local bar association. You will be able to make use of the lawyer referral service to find an attorney that can help your case at a reduced fee.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Child Abuse Attorney?
Because of the various factors that can come into play in a child abuse case, there is no one set price that you can expect when hiring a child abuse attorney. You can expect the cost to change depending on:
- Whether the case involves a highly contested custody dispute
- If you seek mediation services rather than trial
- If a custody evaluation is necessary
- The attorney’s fee rate
- Costs of filing necessary papers with the court
One of the biggest influences on this cost is the attorney fees, which can also fluctuate for many reasons. The experience of the attorney and the projected difficulty of the case can impact an attorney’s price, while a longer case will ultimately cost more. The key to finding an attorney you can afford is to discuss potential costs upfront during your initial consultation.
What to Do If You Face Child Abuse Charges
While many child abuse charges occur due to rightful suspicions, sometimes false accusations can occur due to misinterpretations of situations or as an act of malice against the defendant, such as during a contested divorce. If you are the victim of such charges, you can do several things to protect yourself.
- Avoid situations where you are alone with children and have another adult present to corroborate.
- Avoid any potentially inappropriate conduct with or around children.
- Hire an experienced child abuse attorney to help protect your interests and remain in contact throughout the case.
- Learn California child abuse laws so that you can better understand the legal context of your situations.
- Contact anyone who may be willing to testify on your behalf.
- If the false allegations are due to a child custody dispute, retain positive relationships with your children, as they are not responsible for the allegations against you.
- Take any allegations seriously, as they will likely involve investigations for the sake of any involved children’s safety.
Remaining passive during allegations, even when you know they are false, can put you at legal risk. You should take steps to protect yourself through an attorney, keeping mind that anything you say that may become evidence or seen as a confession. Keeping your calm, despite the stress and frustration of the situation, will put you in a better position to clear any false suspicions.
A conviction for child abuse can lead to lifelong consequences in both your professional and private life. Taking the appropriate steps in face of any charges will help you return to your normal life much faster.
California Child Abuse Allegations
As more adults and professionals become aware of the signs and symptoms of child abuse, more cases are being charged as criminal offenses and brought before California courts. Teachers, child care workers, psychiatrists, and therapists are required by law to report any suspected or admitted instances of child injury or abuse to authorities. Due to widespread public awareness and sensitivity, it has been our experience as attorneys, that many cases of reported child abuse are actually unfounded, even when such reports arise from professional obligations and well-meaning and concerned third parties. Additionally, false child abuse and allegations of misconduct and wrongdoing often arise from bitter divorces, child custody battles, and other family disputes. If you have been falsely accused of harming a child in California, please call our San Diego child abuse defense firm as soon as possible at 619.231.1830 for a free consultation on how to best protect yourself in this situation. In some cases, we may be able to have the criminal charges dropped before they are even filed and help you restore custody of your children.
California Child Abuse Allegations: DO…
Do take preventative measures to ensure you are not alone in the company of the child or children you are being accused of harming. This will help eliminate the accuser from making further allegations or false incident reports. If you are a childcare worker, a coach, teacher or scout leader, Do always have a supportive adult present with you when interacting with children so they may confirm the appropriateness of your actions and behavior. Do negotiate and agree on amicable custody arrangements with former spouses and fellow parents to avoid malicious accusations intended to leverage control or exact revenge. Do avoid verbal outbursts, threats, sexually oriented comments, off-color jokes or humor, wrestling, tackling, or horse-playing with children. Do hire an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney if you are the subject of a child abuse investigation, have been arrested for a related crime, or have been charged with neglecting or abusing a child in California. It is crucial that you confer with a knowledgeable and proven lawyer who knows Child Protective Services (CPS) procedures & personnel, California family law, and the San Diego juvenile judicial system firsthand. Do become informed and knowledgeable in dealing with false allegations of child abuse and related crimes so you may better your rights and freedom going forward.
As your defense attorney, our false allegations attorneys in San Diego will professionally advise you on to best manage the situation you’re faced with, and we will aggressively and expertly defend against the charges against you. Do confide in your defense attorney and keep him apprised of any ensuing events, new developments or concerns, and any new conversations or contact that transpire that with your accuser or the alleged victim.
Do contact and collaborate with friends, witnesses, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and other individuals who can corroborate your innocence and provide testimony on your behalf in court or via a sworn statement or affidavit ONLY AFTER and IF you have received a “go-ahead” from your attorney to discuss your case with anyone other than your defense lawyer. As your San Diego child abuse lawyer, we will expertly advise you as to how and if coordinating a support group of persons who can refute the alleged inappropriate or abusive behavior is best approached depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. Do maintain very positive and supportive relationships with your children if the are the subject of allegations motivated by your estranged spouse’s anger over divorce and custody proceedings. Children are obviously strongly influenced by their desire to please their parents, and can often be persuaded to take sides and agree with the accusing parent due to stress and emotional coercion. Do not blame your children if this is the case. Continue to meet your financial and parental obligations responsibly. Do try to understand that the social workers’ jobs are to protect children, and they are acting for your children’s wellbeing rather than against you, and even though the allegations may be false, by California, they need to be investigated seriously, nonetheless.
If You are Suspected of Child Abuse: DON’T…
Don’t blame it on the child, yell at the child, or otherwise attempt to coerce the child to retract their statements and refute what the charges against you. Your innocence will be established through the proper process, and the young are not emotionally equipped or mature enough to withstand adult stress stressors and issues. Don’t hesitate to stand up for yourself and assert your innocence. Avoid unsupervised contact with the child during the investigation and afterward, if necessary to avoid further allegations. Don’t speak with anybody about your case unless clearly advised by your lawyer that it is okay to do so. Don’t make any false admissions are an attempt to manage police interrogation without your lawyer present.
Child Abuse Case Process
Allegations of child abuse are very serious and can have severe legal consequences. As such, law enforcement conducts a thorough investigation to make sure such claims are accurate. An investigation can include questioning parents, guardians, teachers, doctors, and other possible witnesses to verify abusive behavior and symptoms.
If an investigation determines child abuse has occurred, then law enforcement or child protective services will intervene. Depending on the level of abuse, intervention can be as mild as the parent or other perpetrator having a meeting with child services. For more severe cases, where children are in imminent danger, protective services may remove them from the home and place them in foster care until the parents demonstrate a willingness to stop the abuse. The most severe forms of abuse can call for a termination of parental rights, in which the parents no longer have custody and services place the children up for adoption.
Child protective services maintain records of child abuse. If the court deems a case of child abuse did occur, the incident will become part of the central registry. These records exist so child protective services and other relevant agencies will know if an individual has a history of committing child abuse.
Consequences of Child Abuse
California law treats cases of child abuse under the umbrella of domestic abuse. Depending on the level of abuse, a perpetrator of child abuse can face different fines as well as jail or prison time. The attorney will argue for a level of criminal charges based on the severity of the conduct, harm to the victim, and any other relevant circumstances.
- A conviction for a battery can lead to a fine of $2,000, imprisonment in county jail up to a year, or both; or a period of probation and involvement in batterer’s counseling.
- A conviction that results in serious injury to the damaged party can carry a sentence of imprisonment up to a year in county jail or two to four years in state prison and a restraining order.
- A conviction of a felony can have a sentence of up to one year in county jail, two to four years in state prison, a fine of up to $6,000, or both a fine and imprisonment.
A case of domestic abuse can also lead to restraining orders against the abusive party for the safety and protection of the victim. Such restraining orders enter a database so that law enforcement can check them from anywhere in the state if the need arises.
Reporting Child Abuse
Child abuse is a serious offense. If you reasonably suspect a child is suffering abuse, you should report it. Certain individuals have a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse:
- Administrators or employees of youth organizations or day camps
- Animal control officers
- Child visitation monitors
- Daycare workers
- District attorneys
- Health practitioners
- Human society officers
- Police department employees
- School employees
The failure to report knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse is a misdemeanor under California law for these parties. The penalty for not reporting can be up to six months in jail or up to $1,000.
While the law requires reporting knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse, concern for potential false reports does exist. In some cases, children may report abuse to avoid responsibility, or one parent may accuse the other of child abuse if tensions are high. The increased knowledge of signs of child abuse can also lead to inaccurate reports. A charge of false reporting has the same potential penalty as failure to report. As such, it’s important to understand the signs of child abuse before making a report.
The law firm of George H. Ramos, Jr., located in downtown San Diego, serves clients throughout Southern California including Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, and all neighboring San Diego County regions.