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Can a Parent Face Criminal Charges Related to Child Abuse or Neglect?

 Posted on July 28, 2023 in Criminal Defense

Naperville Child Abuse and Neglect Defense AttorneyChild abuse and neglect are serious offenses that can have long-lasting effects on a child's physical and emotional well-being. In the state of Illinois, parents can face criminal charges if they are accused of abuse or neglect of their children. These charges can carry severe penalties, including imprisonment and the loss of parental rights.

Child Abuse and Neglect Laws in Illinois

Under Illinois law, child abuse may involve the infliction of injuries to a child, allowing a child to suffer harm, or putting a child in a situation where there is a substantial risk that they may be seriously injured or killed. Child neglect may involve a failure to provide a child with the necessary food, clothing, shelter, and medical treatment or allowing a child to live in an environment where their health, safety, and well-being may be at risk. 

Parents may be accused of multiple forms of abuse and neglect. Physical abuse may involve the infliction of non-accidental injuries, such as hitting, kicking, or burning a child. Sexual abuse may include any sexual acts or indecent liberties with a child. Emotional abuse accusations may be based on behaviors that have a negative effect on a child's emotional growth and development or cause a child to suffer from a negative self-image. A parent may be accused of neglect if they have failed to provide for a child’s basic needs or abandoned the child.

Illinois law also recognizes the concept of "mandatory reporters," which include professionals who work closely with children, such as teachers, doctors, and social workers. These individuals are legally required to report suspected child abuse or neglect cases to the appropriate authorities.

Criminal Charges for Child Abuse and Neglect

If a parent is suspected of child abuse or neglect, an investigation may be conducted by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). If sufficient evidence supports the allegations, criminal charges may be filed against the parent. DCFS may also take action to remove a child from a parent’s custody and place them in foster care or the care of a relative until a parent has met certain requirements to protect the child’s safety and well-being.

The specific criminal charges a parent may face will depend on the nature and severity of the abuse or neglect. In Illinois, common charges related to child abuse and neglect include:

  1. Aggravated battery of a child

    A parent may be charged with aggravated battery if they purposely caused a child under the age of 13 to suffer great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement. This offense may be charged as a Class X felony.

  2. Child endangerment

    This charge may apply if a parent is accused of knowingly allowing a child under the age of 18 to be placed in a situation that put the child’s life or health at risk. A parent may face Class A misdemeanor charges for a first offense or Class 3 felony charges for a second offense. Class 3 felony charges may also apply if child endangerment led to a child’s death.

  3. Child abandonment

    This charge applies when a parent willfully deserts a child under the age of 13 and leaves them without supervision for at least 24 hours. Child abandonment may be charged as a Class 4 felony for a first offense and a Class 3 felony for a second offense.

  4. Contributing to the neglect of a minor

    Child neglect charges may apply when a parent fails to provide proper parental care and guardianship for a child under the age of 18 or allows the child to live in an environment where they are exposed to cruelty or depravity. This offense is a Class A misdemeanor.

  5. Child abuse

    Forms of abuse that do not fall into one of the categories above could lead to accusations of domestic violence. A parent may be charged with domestic battery, which is a Class A misdemeanor in most cases. They may also face other penalties, such as an order of protection that may force them to leave their home while restricting their ability to contact their family members.

Defending Against Child Abuse and Neglect Charges

If a parent is facing criminal charges related to child abuse or neglect, seeking legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial. A skilled lawyer can help build a strong defense strategy tailored to the case's specific circumstances.

Possible defenses that may be available to parents accused of child abuse or neglect include:

  1. False allegations

    It is not uncommon for accusations of child abuse or neglect to be made during contentious custody battles or other disputes. A defense attorney can work to uncover any evidence of false allegations and demonstrate that the alleged abuse or neglect did not occur.

  2. Lack of intent

    Some child abuse and neglect charges require proof that the parent acted with intent to harm the child. If the parent's actions were accidental or unintentional, this defense may be applicable.

  3. Lack of evidence

    The prosecution has the burden of proving the parent's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is insufficient evidence to support the charges, a defense attorney can argue for the charges to be dismissed.

  4. Mental health or substance abuse issues

    If the parent has a documented mental health condition or an addiction to drugs or alcohol, a defense attorney may argue that these factors contributed to the alleged abuse or neglect. A parent may be able to address concerns about their children’s safety and well-being by demonstrating that they are receiving treatment and complying with all requirements put in place by the court.

Contact a Naperville Child Abuse and Neglect Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges related to child abuse or neglect, seeking legal representation as soon as possible is crucial. The consequences of a conviction can be severe, including potential imprisonment and the loss of parental rights. At Law Office of Philip R. Nathe, our experienced DuPage County criminal defense lawyer is dedicated to protecting the rights of parents and helping them resolve legal issues related to their children. We understand the complexities of these cases, and we will work tirelessly to build a strong defense on your behalf. Contact us today at 630-416-7600 to schedule a free consultation.  

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