The Child Abuse and Neglect Statute in Washington DC has both a civil and also a criminal component and at times run on separate tracks but concurrently.
If there is a referral for child abuse to the Child Protection Services (CPS), in cases of alleged physical child abuse — there will be a civil as well as criminal investigation when warranted.
Thus charges may be brought in the Family Court as well as in the Criminal Court Systems.
According to the DC Civil Neglect Statute, the term neglected child encompasses the following categories:
1) A child who has been abandoned or abused including physical abuse and excessive punishment;
2) A child who is without proper parental supervision, care or control, subsistence, or education;
3) A child whose parents are unable to discharge their responsibilities because of incarceration, hospitalization, or other physical or mental incapacity;
4) A child whose parents refuse to assume care;
5) A child who is in imminent danger of being abused;
6) A child who has received negligent treatment or maltreatment from her parents;
7) A newborn with no health issue whose parents have not picked up the child from hospital ten days passed birth;
8) A child at birth having illegal substances in her system or regularly exposed to illegal drugs or substance in her environment.
If any of above listed facts are presented and the preliminary CPS investigation concludes evidence of neglect in any of the listed categories, a civil petition will be initiated in the family court and often times after a probable cause hearing the child is removed from the parent’s care.
In cases where there are allegations of physical discipline or abuse with marks, bruises or injuries to the child, then a criminal investigation may result in charges being launched in the criminal court under the DC Cruelty to Children Statute which has three degrees:
The first degree cruelty to the children is defined as:
1) Either intentionally knowingly or recklessly either torturing beating or willfully maltreating a child;
2) Or engaging in conduct that would create a grave risk of bodily injury to a child and consequently cause bodily injury.
The second degree cruelty to the children is defined as intentionally knowingly, or recklessly:
1) Either maltreating a child or engaging in conduct which causes a grave risk of bodily injury to a child; or
2) Exposing a child in any highway, street, field house, outhouse or other place with intent to abandon the child.
The child cruelty charges in either degrees carry significant incarceration time and are vigorously prosecuted.
DC Child Abuse and Neglect Statutes are harsh, unforgiving and the legal threshold to petition a case in civil and bring charges in the criminal courts are minimal.
It is thus imperative to engage an effective legal representation in the investigative phase of the case to address any concerns and issues raised early on to avoid charges.
For more information on this subject refer to our Child Abuse and Neglect page: http://www.familylawdc.com/child-abuse-a-neglect/; or contact our Washington DC family lawyer to schedule an intake appointment.