We all cherish our children and want to do what in their best interests, including keeping them safe from harm. In cases where legitimate abuse has occurred, it should be stopped immediately, and the guilty party punished. It’s an unfortunate fact that it has become quite common for an innocent person to be accused of this serious crime, leaving them to defend themselves against false allegations.
Legitimate or not, when a charge of child abuse is made in Alabama, not only is law enforcement involved but also the state’s Department of Child Protective Services. Alabama also makes a distinction between two distinct categories of child abuse – basic child abuse and aggravated child abuse.
What is Considered Basic Child Abuse?
A person may be charged with child abuse in Alabama when these three conditions are met:
- The child allegedly suffering abuse is under the age of 18,
- The accused is a parent, stepparent, guardian, grandparent, or other person responsible for the child’s care, and
- The suspect is accused of willfully abusing, torturing, cruelly beating, or willfully mistreating the child in some way.
Child abuse is classified as a Class C felony in Alabama, and the penalties faced upon conviction include up to ten years in prison.
Aggravated Child Abuse in Alabama
Aggravated child abuse is considered a much more serious crime in this state. A person may be charged with this offense if:
- The suspect has a previous conviction for child abuse,
- The child suffered serious physical injury due to the abuse, or
- The suspect was subject to a court order regarding the child who was the subject of the alleged abuse.
In the past, aggravated child abuse was classified as a Class B felony in Alabama, with penalties of up to 20 years in prison if convicted. This has recently changed for some aggravated child abuse cases.
What is Winston’s Law?
On March 1, 2016, Gov. Robert Bentley approved “Winston’s Law,” which increases penalties for aggravated child abuse in Alabama. According to the new law, a person convicted of aggravated child abuse involving a child under the age of six will now face Class A felony charges. If convicted, this is punishable by up to life in prison and a $60,000 fine.
The law stems from a case in 2015 in which a four-year-old boy named Winston was found unresponsive in the back of a car in Florida in the company of his mother and her boyfriend. The mother was a Wetumpka native who struggled with addiction, yet the child was found by police to have evidence of severe beatings. Both the court and lawmakers were upset that the accused parties in the case were indicted on Class B felony charges. This new law not only significantly increases the penalty for those who commit these crimes, but it also increases the risk for anyone falsely accused.
Other Potential Consequences of a Child Abuse Charge
As if being accused of child abuse weren’t bad enough, being convicted of a child abuse charge in Alabama can have serious consequences beyond the legal penalties. For a parent who has a custody arrangement with their child, a conviction could threaten their right to spend time alone with their children in the future. There is also the possibility of the courts imposing a restraining order, which would exclude any contact with the child at all.
Conviction of a crime has other consequences as well. Having a criminal record can impact your ability to get a job, find a place to live, get accepted into college or another training program, and even be approved for a loan. If you’ve been accused of one of these crimes, it’s essential that you speak with a skilled Alabama criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
How a Mobile Domestic Violence Lawyer Can Help
If you’ve been wrongly accused of aggravated child abuse, you should not delay in speaking with a knowledgeable Alabama domestic violence attorney about your situation. We understand that these types of charges can be precipitated by someone who has an ulterior motive, such as an ex-spouse or disapproving grandparent.
The child abuse defense lawyers at Darley Law, LLC have the experience it takes to provide an aggressive defense to people accused of these sorts of crimes. Contact our Mobile office now at 251-441-7773 or online to discuss your case.