Under Philadelphia law, child abuse is charged as a specific crime: endangering the welfare of children (EWOC). This is a charge that is used against adults who have neglected or previously harmed a child. If you are facing this charge for a single incident of endangerment, it will be listed as a misdemeanor of the first degree. That carries up to five years in prison if convicted. If there are multiple incidents, what is known as a “course of conduct” then that would carry up to seven years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. These are a specific charge related to creating a risk of severe bodily injury or death to a child. There are other charges for directly harming a child.
If it is a direct, intentional infliction of harm, then they may be charged with aggravated assault or simple assault based on the injury to the child. Generally, these cases will be taken very seriously by prosecutors and judges and police officers, and they will also be prosecuted by the family violence unit in Philadelphia.
If you are facing child abuse charges, you should seek help from a knowledgeable domestic violence attorney as soon as possible. A Philadelphia child abuse lawyer could help you avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction. Speak to an attorney to learn about your legal options.
There are intentional harms to the child which are considered intentional assaults. Those fall into the category of simple assault, aggravated assault, and harassment. Then there are negligent harms the child, which would be under the endangering welfare of a child criminal act. This form of abuse is legally creating a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury to a child in their care.
There are lesser forms of non-criminal neglect which may be handled civilly under the DHS or in family courts, and those would include intervention by the state to take the child. They may not charge the person criminally, but instead, simply remove the child from the care of the adults.
After child abuse is reported and criminal charges are initiated, then the child will be interviewed by Philadelphia Police Detectives or by the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance (PCA). If it is a form of sexual abuse, then PCA will be involved, and they will use a child-friendly investigator to interview the minor to discover the nature of what happened and how they were harmed.
Additionally, their parents will be charged and prosecuted if this is a criminal matter. This type of case will begin in family court if there is a child that will be testifying as a witness, and it will take place in a special child witness room in family courtroom 5-F. These cases are taken very seriously by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and are prosecuted by the family violence unit. Often in these cases, bail is set at a very high amount if the person charged is alleged to be violent towards children.
Abuse can be proven by a variety of different types of evidence. The most common forms of evidence seen in Philadelphia Courts would be the following:
The child could also display other physical or psychological markers of abuse that would be recorded. They could have physical marks of abuse, but there could also be non-physical signs of neglect such as malnourishment, poor living conditions, or other signs of maltreatment. Depending on the type of evidence and proof, that will determine what sort of charges the police officers will file for and which charges the district attorney will approve.
Child abuse cases have a variety of criminal consequences, it is essential to take the case seriously because the judges and prosecutors will prosecute aggressively. At any point during the case, if the court feels that there is a risk to other children or to the community, the judge can raise the bail on that person and take them back into custody even if they have already paid their bail. This is something that the judges will sometimes do if they hear facts that they believe warrant a higher bail amount than what is currently on the case. A person can always be incarcerated pre-trial for allegations of child abuse or even have their bail revoked based on a finding that bail is not appropriate in their case. Even if they are free at one point, they can be taken back into custody.
After pre-trial detention, there are serious consequences from a conviction for child abuse or EWOC. The consequences could affect child custody rights. Additionally, they face a prison sentence of up to five years in jail for a single incident of child abuse, up to seven years for repeated conduct. They could be ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fines as well.
In a family court civil case, the finding by a criminal court could be used as evidence against the defendant. The findings in criminal court will be taken as true and not challenged because the criminal court requires a higher standard of evidence. While the verdict in a civil case may not be admissible in a criminal case, the verdict in a criminal case will be taken as evidence in a civil case most of the time. This conviction can be used against them when testifying in other kinds of cases, such as personal injury claims, as it reflects on their character and who they are as a person.
A civil case that happens before the criminal case is still under oath. If it is about the same circumstances or the same events as with the criminal case, any statements could be used against the person who testifies. For that reason, people may want to plead the Fifth in civil cases or try to enter their criminal matters first so that they do not make statements and subject themselves to cross-examination in civil court. If they have civil and criminal cases open at the same time, they should consult a Philadelphia child abuse attorney about how the two cases interact.
A long-term consequence of child abuse is that it could be hard for the person to regain custody of their child in a family court based on this history of child abuse. It could affect their ability to work certain jobs such as schools and government offices where children might visit, including careers in the healthcare field. A conviction can strip them of other civil rights such as the right to possess firearms. A conviction could also affect your immigration or family court case if one exists. If the abuse was sexual in nature, the defendant could be required to register a sex offender under penalty of law for failing to do so.
To avoid the severe consequences of a conviction, let a Philadelphia child abuse lawyer help your case. Schedule a consultation today.