If you’re facing child abuse charges in Colorado, it’s in your best interests to seek immediate legal representation from a compassionate, knowledgeable attorney who can defend your rights and protect your reputation.
The Denver defense lawyers at Wolf Law understand the far-reaching impacts of child abuse charges, and we have extensive experience with these challenging and often emotionally charged cases.
Child Abuse in Colorado
Child abuse in Colorado is broadly defined as any act or failure to act that threatens the health or welfare of a child (a person less than 16 years old). This includes but is not limited to:
- Negligence: A lack of care that leads to harm, i.e. the failure to provide adequate food, water, shelter or medical care.
- Physical abuse: A physical act that endangers a child’s life or results in harm.
- Psychological abuse: Verbal abuse, manipulation and other forms of emotional cruelty that adversely impact a child’s mental well-being.
- Sexual abuse: Any sexual activity with a child.
While the actions above are inherently detrimental to a child’s welfare, there are other actions people may not explicitly consider child abuse. There’s a fine line between discipline and abuse, but many of these actions may still result in child abuse charges.
- Spanking a child
- Leaving a child unattended at home or in a car
- Driving a child while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
- Exposing a child to controlled substances or illegal drugs
- Committing an act of domestic violence in the presence of a child
- Failing to report suspected child abuse
Child abuse charges range from a petty offense to a Class 1 felony, depending on several factors including but not limited to the severity of any injuries and the relationship between the alleged abuser and the child.
All child abuse allegations should be taken seriously; even a misdemeanor child abuse charge could impact areas of your life including your ability to maintain contact with your child, your employment status, and your access to housing.
Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting in Colorado
In Colorado, certain professionals are required by law to report known child abuse or suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect. These so-called “mandatory reporters” include the following categories:
- Healthcare providers, including general physicians, dentists, nurses, etc.
- Public or private school employees, including teachers, coaches and administrative staff
- Social workers
- Child care providers
- Mental health professionals
- Law enforcement officers
- Emergency medical responders
- Clergy members
When it comes to reporting child abuse, Colorado encourages a better-safe-than-sorry approach. Individuals or institutions who report suspected child abuse are immune from liability if the allegations ultimately prove false as long as they made the report in good faith.
Furthermore, those who report suspected abuse to Colorado’s Child Welfare department may do so anonymously.
Exaggerated or Dishonest Child Abuse Charges
In some cases, child abuse charges may be exaggerated or arise from a misunderstanding.
For example, a family member might make a false accusation out of anger following a domestic dispute. Children may miscommunicate details of an experience due to confusion or manipulated memory. Children may also fabricate accusations without understanding the potential consequences of their actions.
Similarly, some authority figures or professionals who are mandatory reporters may overreact or jump to conclusions about suspected child abuse. Teachers, babysitters or other adults may interpret a child’s complaints about a parent or guardian as allegations of abuse. Law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys may also use Colorado’s broad statutory language regarding child neglect and abuse to amplify charges.
Acceptable Punishment vs. Child Abuse
Parents and legal guardians have a right to discipline their children within the confines of the law, though people have different opinions about what types of punishment are acceptable.
While some people oppose physical punishment such as spanking, there is a meaningful distinction between corporal punishment and criminal child abuse. Physical discipline is not by law considered child abuse.
However, if a disciplinary act leads to formal abuse charges, you may need a criminal defense lawyer to effectively argue in court that the corporal punishment was reasonable and did not cross the line from discipline and physical abuse.
Contact a Colorado Child Abuse Defense Lawyer
If you’re being investigated for alleged child abuse or are facing child abuse charges in Colorado, one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself is to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Defendants often face an uphill battle in child abuse cases because juries are predisposed to protect children and view those accused of abuse with suspicion. The accomplished criminal defense attorneys at Wolf Law have substantial experience in child abuse cases, and our lawyers are effective at guiding juries to reach a fair decision based on the law and the facts of the case.
A child abuse charge can have long-term implications for your personal freedom, your family, your child visitation/custody rights, and other facets of your life. You need an attorney on your side who understands Colorado’s ambiguous child abuse statute and who can likewise help a jury understand when a prosecutor is stretching the statute too far.