Can Child Abuse be a Federal Crime?

Many crimes can be prosecuted and tried at either the state or federal level. This matters a lot, because the level could have a serious impact on your sentence.


Child abuse, however, is an interesting scenario.


How so?


The federal government has created a definition and guidelines for states to follow when child abuse-related cases are prosecuted in state courts.


In other words, if you have been charged with child abuse, you will likely find yourself in front of a Texas judge will probably take into account the guidelines and recommendations from the federal court system.


Below, we’re going to go over the federal guidelines and definition, then explain what you can expect when you start trying to fight back against your charges.


The Federal Definition of Child Abuse


If you are charged with child abuse, it is important to know how the federal government defines this crime. The more you know about the charges against you, the easier it will be to build an aggressive defense with your lawyer.


The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse as:


“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation”

“An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”


In this definition, a “child” is a minor under the age of 18 who is not emancipated.


Houston Child Abuse Attorney

Child abuse is only committed by parents and caregivers.


Federal law limits “caretakers” to adults over the age of 18 who have the greatest responsibilities to look over a child. This does not include teachers or medical professionals, although these authority figures are required by law to report child abuse.


Separate charges are placed on authority figures that abuse children under their supervision.


Penalties for Child Abuse in Texas


If you are charged with violating these federal definitions, you will have to defend yourself in court. Failing to offer an aggressive defense may lead to a conviction and the incredibly serious penalties that come with it.


Penalties for child abuse in Texas will vary based on the nature of the abuse and the relationship between the abuser and the child. In many cases, the offender will have their parental rights revoked or restricted.


Child abuse is a felony crime in the state of Texas, so many other rights will be taken away – at least while an abuser is serving time in prison or probation. Often, child abuse is charged alongside other crimes like assault or family violence. These crimes can put abusers behind bars for years.


In addition to criminal penalties, abusers may face civil penalties if the victims decide to come forward and ask for financial compensation. Injuries can have a huge impact in criminal and civil cases, especially if the injuries were treated in a hospital or other medical facility. Mental distress and damage may also play a factor into both cases. Victims may come forward and file a claim, creating the possibility of additional restitution to pay on top of criminal fines charged by the state.


This laundry list of potential penalties is the reason you need to put forward the strongest possible defense strategy. Thankfully, there are a number of potentially viable defense strategies available to fight child abuse charges. Talk to a respected Texas defense lawyer for more information on what is most appropriate for your case.