Laws & Facts – Injury to a Child Case.
Have you been arrested for the crime of Injury to a Child in Fort Worth or in the surrounding cities in Tarrant County, Texas? Has a Tarrant County police detective called you and accused you of abusing your child or excessively disciplining your child? If so, you are facing a serious criminal charge that must be defended zealously by an experienced and aggressive criminal defense attorney with experience dealing with Injury to a Child cases in Tarrant County, Texas.
Texas criminal law attempts to protect the most vulnerable of its citizens with the Injury to a Child or Elderly statute. Most of the time, the law is applied properly. However, there are times when detectives and prosecutors will presume that someone is guilty without sufficient evidence to establish the charge of injury to a child.
Should You Talk To A Detective?
This is one of the most frequent questions we get from clients charged with Injury to a child or elderly. It is common that an investigation for injury to a child will last several weeks or months. During this period of time, the detective will attempt to gather additional evidence and at some point, attempt to call you to get your side of the story.
It may be tempting to meet with the detective to lay out exactly what happened to make it clear you are innocent of the charge of injury to a child. However, be incredibly careful when deciding to meet and speak with a detective. The detective is calling you for one reason: a confession. It is tempting to believe that a detective will allow you to tell your side of the story and the case will go away. Unfortunately, detectives are trained to ask leading questions that result in answers that can be interpreted to appear to be a confession.
For example: You may have been dealing with your 10-year-old child and they were being disrespectful and violent toward you. As a parent, you made the decision to discipline your child by spanking them on the backside. Your child goes to school the next day and the teacher learns about the spanking from your child and the police are called and an investigation is launched into an allegation of injury to a child. You know you have done nothing wrong so when a detective calls you and asks you to meet up with him to give your side of the story, you happily agree. When you arrive, the detective immediately begins to grill you about the fact he already knows what happened and only needs to know if you admit to hitting your child. You become terribly upset and feel like you have already been convicted in the mind of the detective. You try to explain that you only reasonably disciplined your child because of their behavior. What you do not know is that the detective is writing down that you confessed to striking your child. This “confession” can be used to obtain a warrant for your arrest.
If you choose to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney, your decision to exercise your sixth amendment right to counsel will protect you from being manipulated or misinterpreted by a detective. Everything your criminal attorney says to the detective is hearsay and can NOT be used against you. However, by collaborating with your lawyer, you are able to ensure that the correct information is provided to the police to possibly avoid a warrant for your arrest.
Elements of the Crime of Injury to a Child or Elderly
According to Texas Penal Code, Title 5: Offenses Against the Person, Chapter 22: Assaultive Offenses, Section 22.04, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office will be required to prove the following elements of Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual beyond a reasonable doubt:
A person commits the offense of Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual if he intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly by omission, causes to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual:
- serious bodily injury.
- serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or
- bodily injury.
This definition of the crime can be confusing. One critical issue to be aware of is that the definition of Injury to a Child or Elderly does not include accidents. In other words, if what took place was an accident, the State of Texas will not be able to prove the crime of Injury to a Child.
For example: What if you are in the kitchen making dinner and your 5-year-old jumps from the couch to the ottoman and misses the mark, resulting in him breaking his leg. If the police were to get involved and claim that you were negligent because you neglected his care, could you be convicted of Injury to a Child? No! The prosecutor would be required to prove that you, as a parent, had the criminal intent to fail to act by neglecting the child that caused the injury to the child. Accidents are not covered!
When Does An “Injury” Become Criminal Under Texas Injury to a Child Law?
The accused must have contacted the child or elderly in a manner that caused serious bodily injury or bodily injury. Serious bodily injury, under Texas criminal law, is defined as sustaining a permanent or protracted loss of use of a bodily member or organ. Examples would be an injury that results in blindness, being permanently crippled, or disfigurement. Bodily injury, under Texas criminal law, is defined as contact that results in “physical pain.” Does that mean there must be proof of bruising or scratches to prove bodily injury? Not necessarily, but failure by the detective or prosecutor to provide evidence of an injury makes an injury to a child case very weak and may assist in getting your case dismissed.
For the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office to sustain a charge of Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual, it is important that the specific definitions defined by the Texas Penal Code apply and be proven in your case. For instance, according to Texas Penal Code, Title 5, Section 22.04, In this section:
- “Child” means a person 14 years of age or younger.
- “Elderly individual” means a person 65 years of age or older.
- “Disabled individual” means a person older than 14 years of age who by reason of age or physical or mental disease, defect, or injury is substantially unable to protect himself from harm or to provide food, shelter, or medical care for himself.
Deciding as to the severity of the charge and range of punishment for Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual requires proof of criminal intent.
The Texas Penal Code states that Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual is a felony of the first degree when the conduct is committed intentionally or knowingly. A felony of the first degree is punishable by a term in prison of not less than 5 years but up to 99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
When the conduct is engaged in recklessly, the offense is a felony of the second degree. A felony of the second degree is punishable by a term in prison of not less than 2 years but not more than 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
If the alleged injury is not serious and the conduct was committed intentionally or knowingly, the crime will be classified as a third-degree felony punishable by a term in prison of not less than 2 years but not more than 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
Is Spanking Your Child Illegal In Texas?
One of the most common fact scenarios where a Tarrant County citizen is charged with Injury to a Child is when the police allege that you excessively disciplined your child. The Texas Penal Code states that Injury to a Child is a state jail felony when the person acts with criminal negligence. A state jail felony is punishable by a term in prison of not less than 180 days but not more than 2 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
It is important to understand that if you have reasonably disciplined your child, you are not guilty of Injury to a Child. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on spanking or corporal punishment, you have a right to discipline your children under Texas law. As long as the discipline was reasonable, spanking is legal.
What Can You Do If You Are Innocent Of Injury To A Child Charges?
First, you should hire an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer to manage all communication with the detective and guide you through the process if you are required to book in and out of jail on a warrant. Your criminal lawyer can also get access to the police reports and digital media evidence and get this in front of you to start planning your criminal defense.
After reviewing the evidence on the case, your criminal defense attorney can provide you an analysis of the facts as applied to the law and identify weaknesses in the case to prepare a presentation to a grand jury to resolve your case.
Under Texas criminal law, every felony in Texas must be presented to a grand jury for indictment. A grand jury is different from a jury trial. A jury trial is designed to present all evidence with direct and cross examination for a final determination of guilt or innocence. A grand jury is a panel of citizens tasked with the job of determining if there is a sufficient probable cause to indict a felony case.
Unfortunately, many criminal defense attorneys do not take advantage of the grand jury system for their clients. The grand jury works very much like a filter. If you have evidence favorable to your injury to a child case that may show you were innocent of the charges, your criminal attorney can prepare a packet of evidence to ensure this evidence is presented to the grand jury for consideration.
After presentation of the evidence, the grand jury has three options:
- True Bill the case – this means the case was approved as a felony and it will be assigned to a felony court for court settings and negotiations between the prosecutor and your criminal lawyer.
- Reduction of charges – the grand jury may decide that after reviewing the evidence, a lesser misdemeanor charge is more appropriate. In this situation, the case will be assigned to a misdemeanor court in Tarrant County and assigned to a misdemeanor prosecutor for negotiations.
- No Bill of the charges – a no bill is the equivalent of a dismissal of the injury to a child charge. This is the best-case scenario and should always be the goal of your criminal defense lawyer during a grand jury presentation.
If you are facing a charge of Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual, or Disabled Individual it is imperative that you contact an experienced criminal attorney in Tarrant County that has a proven track record of handling Injury to a Child cases in the courts of Tarrant County. At The Hampton Law Firm, you can collaborate with a team of Former Prosecutors with over 80 years of criminal law experience and over 500 criminal jury trials in the courts of Tarrant County and North Texas. The Hampton Law Firm has successfully represented clients charged with Injury to a Child charges and have been able to have a number of cases no billed by a Tarrant County grand jury or reduced to a lower-level misdemeanor offense. You need a plan of action to get your injury to a child charges dismissed and ensure that you can keep a conviction off your criminal record.
Call The Hampton Law Firm now for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options under Texas law. Contact Jeff Hampton at 817-826-9905.