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Utah Child Abuse Attorney - Salt Lake Criminal Lawyer

Just being charged with child abuse carries an enormous social stigma. Being convicted of child abuse can result in substantial jail or prison time. As an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer, Stephen Howard has successfully protected his clients rights in child abuse cases ranging from felony child abuse homicide to misdemeanor child abuse. He has a track record of achieving real results for his clients. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

Criminal Child Abuse Charges in Utah

The way that Utah's child abuse laws have been interpreted can be confusing. It is possible (according to Utah's appellate court system) to commit child abuse without actually inflicting any real injury. It is possible to commit child abuse without intending to inflict any injury. A person may also be charged with child abuse in cases where the defendant "causes or permits" another person to inflict physical injury on a child.

Child abuse charges can be filed as either misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the severity of any injuries inflicted as well as on the intent or mental state of the defendant. The following presents a brief overview of the various levels of child abuse that may be charged in Utah. Anyone under investigation or facing prosecution for child abuse is strongly encouraged to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Second-Degree Felony Child Abuse

A second-degree felony charge of child abuse carries a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison and a $19,000 fine (including surcharge). A second-degree felony can be filed in cases where serious physical injury has been knowingly or intentionally inflicted on a child. Second-degree felony charges may be filed even if the injury is not intentionally or knowingly inflicted, but instead occurs as a result of child abandonment. Although rarely filed, a second-degree felony may also be charged if, as a result of committing child abandonment, the defendant receives any benefit, either directly or indirectly.

The most common basis for a second-degree charge of child abuse in Utah is serious injury to a child. "Serious injury" is defined for purposes of Utah's child abuse statute (Utah Code 76-5-109) as any physical injury or combination of injuries that : seriously impairs the child's health; causes serious emotional harm to the child; involves a substantial risk of death, or involves physical torture.

Third-Degree Felony Child Abuse

Third-degree felony child abuse charges carry the potential for up to five years in prison and $9,500 in fines (including surcharge). A third-degree felony child abuse charge may also involve serious injury to a child, if the injury is inflicted recklessly (as opposed to "knowingly or intentionally"). Child abandonment can result in third-degree felony charges if no serious injury is involved as a result of the abandonment.

Class A Misdemeanor Child Abuse

A class A misdemeanor child abuse charge has a possible sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of $4,750 (including surcharge). A class A misdemeanor child abuse charge may be based on a serious injury that is negligently inflicted, or on an ordinary "physical injury" that is intentionally or knowingly inflicted.

Class B Misdemeanor Child Abuse

Child abuse is considered a class B misdemeanor if the injury is not serious, and if the injury occurs as a result of reckless conduct by the defendant. A class B misdemeanor child abuse charge carries a potential penalty of up to 180 days in jail and $1,900 in fines (including surcharge).

Class C Misdemeanor Child Abuse

Child abuse can be filed as a class C misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and $1,425 in fines (including surcharge). Child abuse is considered a class C misdemeanor if the injury involved is not serious, and if the defendant's conduct was only negligent.

Physical Injury - Child Abuse with no Injury

While child abuse laws in Utah require proof of an "injury" in order to support a criminal charge, there need not be proof of an actual "injury" in the ordinary sense of the word. Utah law defines "injury" as including things that one would ordinarily consider to be an injury (such as bruises, cuts, lacerations, broken bones, etc.) But the term "injury" also includes failure to thrive, malnutrition, or "any other condition which imperils the child's health or welfare."

This "condition which imperils the child's health or welfare" language has been interpreted by Utah courts as including conditions in which no actual injury is inflicted, but the risk of such an injury. Thus, a child abuse charge can be supported where the evidence only shows that the child was put at risk of receiving an injury.

Finding a Utah Child Abuse Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City

Utah Criminal LawyerJust being accused does not make you guilty. Before you do anything or say anything to anyone about your case, you should talk to a qualified Utah criminal defense lawyer.

False accusations of child abuse have been made for a variety of reasons. It may be that a child is using the claim of child abuse to get attention. Parties involved in a divorce have been known to fabricate a claim of child abuse for the purpose of getting custody of the child in the divorce. Innocent events have been misinterpreted and allegations have been made when no actual abuse has occurred.

Child abuse charges are serious. The best results for your case are more likely if you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. If you have been accused of child abuse, contact Utah criminal defense attorney Stephen Howard to arrange for a confidential consultation.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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