Have you Been Charged with Cruelty to Children in Georgia?
Attempting to defend yourself against a cruelty to children charge can be difficult especially if it involves the testimony of a child. Also, the media places a heavy negative connotation on charges that relate to child cruelty, which can make it seem impossible to fight the charge. However, Lawson and Berry and their team of Cruelty to Children Attorneys are here to help you. A charge is not the same as a conviction, and our Lawyers will ensure you receive the best defense possible.
Georgia Law on Cruelty to Children
Cruelty to children is broken down into three different degrees. First-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child under the age of 18 willfully deprives the child of necessary sustenance to the extent that the child's well being is jeopardized. In addition, cruelty to children in the first degree includes when a person maliciously causes a child under the age of 18 cruel or excessive physical or mental pain. O.C.G.A. §16-5-70 (a)-(b).
Second-degree cruelty to children occurs when a person with criminal negligence causes a child less than 18 years old cruel or excessive physical or mental pain. O.C.G.A. §16-5-70(c)
Third-degree cruelty to children occurs when either
- A person, who is the primary aggressor, intentionally allows a child under the age of 18 to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery; or
- A person, who is the primary aggressor, having knowledge that a child under the age of 18 is present and sees or hears the act, commits a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery. O.C.G.A. §16-5-70(d)
A defendant was convicted of third-degree cruelty to children after stabbing his wife in front of the children. Dunn v. State, 292 Ga. 359, (2013). The children testified that their mother told them defendant had threatened her saying he was going to kill her because she “killed him on the inside.” Later that day, the defendant met his wife in a parking lot where they intended to exchange custody of the minor children, ages seven and nine. Two men testified they were returning to their vehicles when they heard screaming and saw the victim and the accused fighting. The children among other witnesses watched as the wife was stabbed three times in the back and later died. The Court found there was sufficient evidence to support a conviction for third-degree cruelty to children based on the proof that he beat and stabbed his wife in front of their children.
What Has to be Proven to be Convicted?
To be convicted of cruelty to children, the State must demonstrate that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, there must be evidence establishing the age of the child, which the child or children suffered physical or mental pain, that the pain was cruel or excessive, that the defendant caused the pain, and that the defendant acted maliciously in committing the crime.
Penalty for Cruelty to Children Conviction in Georgia
The penalty for being convicted of first-degree cruelty is a prison term between five and twenty years. Second-degree cruelty comes with the consequences of a prison term between one and ten years.
Lastly, cruelty to children in the third degree can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. The first or second conviction will be treated as a misdemeanor may include a period of confinement and a fine. Upon a third or subsequent conviction to cruelty in the third degree, the defendant will be guilty of a felony and the penalty will include a fine between $1,000.00 and $5,000.00 and incarceration between one and three years. A defendant could receive prison or a fine or both.
The allegations are false: While this may seem trivial, false accusations of child abuse do happen, and it is important to know how to present evidence demonstrating this. False allegations tend to arise when there are strenuous relationships like in blended families or when there is a difficult child custody battle.
It was an accident: Children get injured all the time, and if the injury did not result out of recklessness or gross negligence, then you could have a defense. An example could include accidentally slamming a child's hand in the door or pushing a child on their bike, and they end up falling off.
Parents Right to Discipline: Parents have the right to disciple their children and can choose to discipline as they please. However, the Court has decided that the punishment must be reasonable and cause no bodily injury. There is no bright line that the Court uses to determine if the reprimand is rational but instead it is decided on a case by case basis.
What are not Defenses
The suspect neglected to supervise the children, but it wasn't malicious: Neglect can be sufficient grounds to convict a suspect of second-degree cruelty to children. In Kain v. State, the defendant failed to supervise the children even though they knew the children were outside playing and there was a pool. The children ended up drowning in the pool and the Court held that the neglect led to the children's drowning. 287 Ga. App. 45, (2007).
I have the right to discipline my child: Although there is a parent's right to discipline, if it goes beyond what is reasonable, then it will be considered cruelty to children.
Cruelty to children charges are serious, and you need an Attorney that will work for you. The Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyers at Lawson and Berry will help you around the clock and will ensure you receive the best representation. Don't wait to call and schedule a free consultation. You and your loved ones are at stake.