Harming or injuring a child is a serious criminal offense in Texas. Children are considered especially vulnerable and are in a legally protected class of citizens that also includes disabled and elderly people.
There are two primary types of child injury crimes in Houston. The first type includes intentionally and knowingly causing harm to a child. This could involve intentionally causing a child bodily injury by hitting or striking.
The second type is child abuse by neglect or omission. This may involve recklessly ignoring child safety by leaving children in or near a dangerous situation or failing to provide nourishment to children. Both of these crimes are considered child abuse and have severe legal consequences.
Child Abuse Legal Penalties
Many crimes that involve child safety or child neglect can be prosecuted as felony offenses in Houston. In addition to fines and jail time, people convicted of injury to a child or child endangerment may lose custodial rights and certain occupational licenses.
Some examples of penalties:
- Serious bodily injury to a child is a first degree felony, punishable by five to 99 years in prison
- Reckless behavior resulting in child bodily injury is a state jail felony, punishable by 180 days to two years in state jail
- Parents convicted of this crime may temporarily or permanently lose their parental or custodial rights
- Teachers or daycare workers who are convicted of harming a child may temporarily or permanently lose all rights and licensing for working with children
Legal Defenses for Child Injury
A child exploitation attorney may be able to argue that a child’s injuries were not sustained as a result of abuse, criminal negligence or reckless behavior. For example, if a child sustains a bruise and hairline bone fracture, an attorney may argue that the injuries could have been sustained as the result of roughhousing on the school playground. This will usually require the testimony of a medical expert.
In Loco Parentis in Texas
“In loco parentis” is a legal clause that means “within the rights of the parent.” Under Texas law, parents or legal custodians are allowed to use physical force to discipline children. This may be a defense against charges of child abuse.