If you have been accused of child abuse in Colorado, you face serious penalties and felonies that could impact where you can get a job, where you live in Colorado, and even your ability to practice fundamental rights.
You need to fight back with a strong defense to avoid a conviction, and the best place to start with your defense is to know what charges you are facing and what next steps you face. Below, we’re going to detail the law in Colorado and how it works.
What Constitutes as Child Abuse in Colorado?
According to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 18-6-401, child abuse is an act that:
- causes an injury to a child’s life or health
- permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child’s life or health
Child abuse is also the process of engaging in a continued pattern of neglect or acts that cause:
- lack of proper medical care
- cruel punishment
- accumulation of injuries that results in serious bodily injury or death
Child abuse is a broad charge. It can potentially include physical abuse or slowly starving a child. There are also separate child abuse charges that apply to sexual exploitation of a child, child pornography, or sexual abuse of a child. Sex crime charges are much more serious if the victim is a child, and have additional penalties that include mandatory registration on the sex offender list.
According to Colorado law, a “child” is a person under 16 years old. Separate charges apply if the abuse was directed toward an adult.
Who Can Report Colorado Child Abuse?
Pretty much anyone can report abuse, but adults who practice specific professions in Colorado are legally required to report signs of child abuse. The law comes into play if the adult sees any signs or symptoms that could reasonably be caused by abuse or neglect, like bruises or signs of starvation. Adults are alerted of this responsibility while they are being trained for their job.
The following professions are required to report child abuse:
- Medical professionals (physicians, dentists, nurses, mental health professionals, etc.)
- Social workers and psychologists
- Teachers and school employees
- Peace officers and clergymen
Unfortunately, not all accusations are accurate, and some professionals will report potential abuse just to “be on the safe side” and keep themselves out of trouble. Sadly, accusations made “just in case” may still result in criminal charges.
It is important to remember, though, that a charge is not a conviction.
What are the Penalties for Child Abuse in Colorado?
The penalties for child abuse in Colorado depend on the severity of the abuse and the intentions (or lack thereof) of the defendant. Past convictions and the possible sexual nature of the crimes will also have an impact on the penalties given to defendants if they are convicted.
If the defendant recklessly committed an act of abuse or neglect but did not seriously injure the child, they will face misdemeanor charges. Defendants convicted of misdemeanor crimes in Colorado may face up to 18 months in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Felony charges for child abuse range from class 5 felonies to class 2 felonies. Acts of abuse that result in the death of a child may result a class 2 felony whether or not the defendant had intentions to hurt the child. Felony penalties range from one to 24 years in jail, with fines reaching up to $1,000,000. Defendants who have been convicted of felony crimes before may face additional penalties.
Additional penalties are added if the defendant held a “position of trust” relative to the child. This position includes a parent, physician, teacher, or other sort of authority figure that has a professional responsibility to care for the child. Incidents of child abuse that would normally be charged as a misdemeanor are bumped up to a class 5 felony if the defendant was in a position of trust.
Colorado Child Abuse Charges Are Not Convictions
A conviction on child abuse charges can ruin lives. Thankfully, there are ways to avoid a child abuse conviction. Common defense strategies for child abuse charges include:
- Lack of intention/recklessness
- Alibi for dates and times of alleged abuse
- False accusation out of spite
- Seeking rehabilitation for drug and alcohol abuse or anger management
Create the most effective defense strategy for your case by reaching out to a Colorado defense lawyer. A knowledgeable and experienced criminal attorney can help you determine what options are available for you and how to move forward. The sooner you reach out, the sooner you can start preparing for your trial and help your family move forward together.
About the Author:
Since 2005, Jeffrey L. Weeden has been practicing criminal defense law in Colorado and has helped countless clients protect their rights and freedoms as a respected, caring, hard-nosed criminal defense attorney. Over the course of his career, Mr. Weeden’s work has been recognized in numerous ways, including being named to the Top 100 Trial Lawyers list by The National Trial Lawyers, earning a 10.0 “Suberb” Avvo rating, receiving Martindale-Hubbard’s highest peer review rating — AV Preeminent, and being asked to speak on several issues of interest to the legal community. Additionally, he is someone who cares deeply about his community and those in need, and is an active member of a number of professional legal organizations, including the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center and Law Firm Pro Bono Coordinators.