New Jersey takes accusations of domestic violence very seriously—even more so when the victim is a child. Child abuse is a fourth-degree indictable offense (felony-level) in New Jersey that can result in fines up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in prison for a single offense, along with other consequences like loss of custody and visitation rights. Suffice it to say, if you're accused of abusing a child, it's an allegation you should take very seriously, as well, even if the accusation is false. Without the help of a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney, you could lose custody and visitation of your children at best, and a lengthy jail sentence at worst.
Child Abuse Defense Attorney in New Jersey
While facing charges of child abuse can be a scary prospect, you do have rights under the law, and you are still innocent until proven guilty. Attorney Joseph D. Lento will work to ensure your rights are protected and that you have every opportunity to clear your name. If you've been arrested on suspicion of child abuse, call 888-535-3686 for help now.
Explanation of Child Abuse in New Jersey
In New Jersey, the crime of child abuse is covered extensively in the New Jersey Statutes Title 9:6. Under the law, it is a crime in New Jersey to “abuse, abandon, be cruel to or neglectful of” a child. NJSA 9:6-1 defines these terms further:
"Abuse" of a child includes the following:
- Leaving or giving up a child without giving up custody according to law
- Repeated use of profane/obscene language around the child
- Forcing the child to do work that is dangerous or illegal
- Committing immoral/bad acts in front of the child so as to corrupt it morally
- Using excessive physical restraint on a child
"Abandonment" of a child includes the following:
- "Willfully forsaking" the child
- Allowing the child to be put at physical or moral risk by lack of care, custody, or control
- Putting the public or other agencies in the position of having to care for/protect the child due to lack of care, custody, or control
"Cruelty" to a child includes the following:
- Unnecessarily severe corporal punishment
- Inflicting unnecessary physical, mental, or emotional pain and suffering and/or torment--or passively allowing the child to be subjected to such
- "Exposing a child to unnecessary hardship, fatigue, or mental or physical strains"
Additional Crimes Against Children
Those who are accused of child abuse under the law often face additional criminal charges based on the fact that these crimes were committed against children. Common additional criminal charges related to child abuse may include:
- Simple assault
- Aggravated assault
- Sexual assault and/or criminal sexual contact
- Endangering the welfare of a child
- Attempted murder
Possible Penalties for Child Abuse
According to NJSA 9:6-3, child abuse in New Jersey is categorized as a fourth-degree indictable offense. If convicted of this crime, you could face a maximum fine of $10,000, some or all of which may be paid as restitution to the child and/or their guardian. You could also face up to 18 months in prison. However, if you are the parent or guardian of the victim, the law does allow for alternative sentencing that would allow you to remain out of jail. The stipulations are as follows:
- The child is removed from your care and placed with a state-approved agency or organization for the duration of your sentence.
- You are placed on probation.
- You are required to make specified payments to the agency or organization for the care of your child.
- If you fail to make the payments, you'll be arrested and the original sentence will apply.
Possible Defenses to Child Abuse Charges
Despite the seriousness of child abuse crimes in New Jersey, you don't need to assume that you'll receive the harshest possible penalty. A good defense attorney can implement numerous defense strategies either to acquit you of the charges, have the charges reduced or dismissed, or negotiate for more lenient sentencing such as the alternative penalty mentioned above. Common defenses to child abuse charges include, but are not limited to:
- False accusations: Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for people to make false child abuse allegations--whether out of spite, to gain an advantage in a custody battle, or for some other ulterior motive. If your attorney can show that the allegations against you are baseless or otherwise fabricated, this can be enough to get the charges dismissed.
- Insufficient evidence: Sometimes, child abuse cases rely on circumstantial or hearsay evidence that is not admissible in court. If your attorney can demonstrate that there is insufficient evidence to support a conviction, the charges may be reduced or dismissed entirely.
- Actions didn't meet the criteria of child abuse: For example, if you're accused of cruelty to a child by inflicting "unnecessarily severe" corporal punishment, your attorney may be able to provide evidence that the corporal punishment you imposed was not severe (as evidenced by the fact that no injury occurred).
- Lack of intent: The crime of child abuse is assumed to be willful and intentional. Your attorney may be able to demonstrate that you had no intent to cause harm to your child or that their injuries were accidental.
Because there is so much at stake when facing charges of child abuse in New Jersey, make sure you have an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has years of experience helping defendants combat serious charges of child abuse and other acts of domestic violence. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your case.