In the State of Texas, child abuse means inflicting or failing to reasonably prevent inflicting mental or emotional injury that impairs a child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning. It also includes physical injury resulting in substantial harm or at variance with the explanation given.
Abuse is intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causing a child serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury or serious bodily injury. Child abuse also includes exploitation and use of a controlled substance resulting in mental or physical harm to a child.
In child abuse cases, the definition of “child” depends on the type of abuse:
Texas requires many authorities to report suspected child abuse to Child Protective Services (CPS). With stiff penalties for failure to report child abuse injuries or child abandonment, people may adopt a better-safe-than-sorry policy when deciding to report. Sometimes, people can find themselves facing child abuse charges when they have done nothing wrong.
Child abuse has several subclassifications:
This kind of abuse includes physical assault and battery, injury, or threat of substantial harm to a child. Placing a child in or failing to remove a child from an emotionally, psychologically, or physically abusive situation could also result in charges. If you fail to seek medical care for a child resulting in substantial risks of death, disfigurement, or bodily injury or fail to make a reasonable effort to prevent another person’s acts from resulting in physical injury, you could be charged with child abuse.
Trafficking is transporting, enticing, recruiting, harboring, providing, or otherwise obtaining another person by any means.
Kidnapping is intentionally or knowingly abducting another person. In Texas, if a kidnap victim is held for ransom, used as a hostage, inflicted with bodily injury or sexual abuse, or terrorized, the kidnapper can receive a more severe charge of aggravated kidnapping.
Injury to a child is defined as knowingly, intentionally, recklessly, or by omission causing injury. Owing a duty of care to a child yet failing to act so that the child is injured can also be charged as injury to a child. Injury includes both bodily and mental injury.
Forced labor or services means labor or services other than those that constitute sexual conduct that is performed or provided by another person and obtained through someone’s use of force, fraud, or coercion.
Molestation is also called sexual abuse. Texas defines molestation as indecency, sexual contact, or sexual abuse of anyone under the age of 17. It includes gaining sexual gratification from a child or exposing the genitals of either the molester or the child.
Causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the filming or depiction of a child engaging in obscene or pornographic behavior is molestation, too.
When someone knows that taking or retaining a child younger than 18 years old violates the express terms of a judgment or order, including a temporary order, of a court disposing of the child custody, they violate a child custody order.
Beyond taking or keeping the child, violations include taking the child out of a specific geographic area without permission, taking the child outside of the US with intent to deprive the custodial parent of the child, or entices or persuades the child to leave the custody of the guardian or custodial parent are all violations of a child custody order.
Neglect is a parent’s or guardian’s failure to meet a child’s needs, including shelter, food, water, clothing, supervision, or medical care. Neglect is recognized through malnourishment, dirty or torn clothing, unexplained absences from school, leaving a child at home for long periods, the lack of personal hygiene, or the need for a significant amount of dental or medical care.
Endangerment is the act of intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, by act or omission, engaging in conduct that places a child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.
It can include:
A subclass of endangerment (that is of particular note) is endangerment by exposure to substances. It includes administering a controlled substance to a child resulting in physical or mental injuries, allowing a child to use a controlled substance, receiving a DWI while a child is in the car, or consuming a controlled substance in front of a child.
Abandonment is defined as leaving a child any place without providing reasonable and necessary care of the child under circumstances in which no reasonable, similarly situated adult would leave a child of that age and ability.
The court considers what is reasonable according to the age of the child. Leaving a six-month-old in a grocery aisle while the parent shops in another can be termed abandonment, while a 14-year-old could reasonably be said to have the capability of being in a separate aisle from a responsible adult.
Abandonment doesn’t just apply to parents; it is illegal for anyone who has custody, care, or control of a child.
Child sexual abuse applies for children who are 17 years old and under. This kind of abuse includes:
It doesn’t matter if a person knows the child’s age at the time of the offense. Any contact between the child and someone’s sexual organs, anus, or mouth is considered abuse.
The State of Texas defines an elderly individual as one who is 65 years of age or older. Abuse is knowingly or intentionally threatening or causing imminent bodily injury. It includes causing pain, even if the cause of the pain does not leave a mark.
The Attorney General of Texas states the following as the types of rights and protections afforded explicitly to the elderly:
When determining abuse, the state uses the standard of what would make someone reasonably fear they will suffer bodily injury or reasonably fear their property is in danger of harm to determine abuse.
Actions that would constitute a crime against an elderly citizen in Texas include:
From theft to rape, the penalties vary according to the crime committed.
Exploitation occurs when a designated caregiver attempts to misuse a senior citizen’s disability for personal gain. The caregiver can be a family member or a third party.
Nursing home abuse includes these behaviors:
The owner, operator, or employee of a group home, nursing facility, assisted living facility, intermediate care facility, or other institutional care can be charged with abuse for intentionally, recklessly or with criminal negligence, by act or intentionally, or recklessly by omission causes bodily injury, serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to an elderly individual.
Harassment is annoying, alarming, abusing, tormenting, or embarrassing another person with the intent to harass. Harassment includes obscene comments or requests, threats of bodily injury, false reports of another’s injury or death, repeated phone ringing, text messaging, or other electronic communication.
It includes such behaviors as:
The prosecutor must show communication of something offensive or objectionable using any type of communication, including texts, emails, and social media posts.
Harassment can take a variety of forms besides sexual harassment.
Stalking is a form of domestic violence. It’s a pattern of malicious behavior that includes following or pursuing someone or repeatedly contacting someone via phone, mail, or the internet. It can consist of unwanted gifts and messages.
Stalking behavior must cause the victim to fear for their safety or well-being, such as threatening imminent bodily injury or death to the victim, a member of the victim’s family or partner, or offenses committed against their property.
A pattern is established if the behavior is repeated more than once. Like harassment, stalking may make an individual feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, tormented, or embarrassed.
Threats can include burglary, trespassing, and other property crimes. The stalker must reasonably know or believe the victim will view the behavior as threatening, causing fear, or could cause a reasonable person to fear. Loitering outside someone’s home to “keep tabs” on them is considered stalking.
Online stalking is done over an electronic device, including the internet, email, and texts. The messages must be sent to the same person and include specific threats. Someone can be charged with stalking even if they didn’t send the messages themselves by having someone do so on their behalf.
For a charge of stalking, the behavior must be willful and malicious with the intent to threaten or place an individual in fear. The stalker must be able to reasonably determine that the conduct would cause an average person to become intimidated or afraid.
Brett A. Podolsky is a highly effective criminal defense lawyer who serves the Houston area. Call 713-227-0087 to speak with Brett Podolsky, attorney at law, about an expert defense against abuse charges.