What Is Child Neglect?
The state of Texas defines child neglect as a parent or guardian’s failure to meet their child’s needs. A child’s needs, according to the state, include access to:
- Medical care
When a parent can’t meet these needs, they’re obligated by law to arrange for someone else to do so. You can also be found guilty of child neglect if you knowingly endanger your child. Texas recognizes the following factors as signs of child neglect:
- Dirty or torn clothing
- Several unexplained absences from school
- The child stays home alone for long periods
- The child needs an extraordinary amount of dental or medical care
- A lack of personal hygiene
You could also get charged with child abandonment or child endangerment. Abandonment occurs when you leave a child under 15-years-old without access to reasonable and necessary care. Here are a few different actions that could lead to criminal charges in Texas:
- Getting a DUI while a child is in the car
- Driving without putting your child’s seatbelt on
- Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle for more than five minutes
- Putting your child in any type of dangerous situation where harm is likely
- Allowing children access to unsecured firearms
- Consuming a controlled substance in front of a child
When analyzing your actions, courtrooms will consider what’s reasonable. For example, it wouldn’t be considered endangerment to let a 14-year-old go to another aisle in a grocery store. The same action could be considered endangerment, though, if the child was only six-months-old.
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Penalties for Child Neglect in Texas
Were you charged with a child neglect crime in Texas? The severity of your offense will play a huge role in the seriousness of your charges and potential penalties issued by the court. Here’s an overview of the types of child neglect crimes and their classifications:
- Abandonment without an intent to return: third-degree felony
- Abandonment that leads to imminent danger: second-degree felony
- DUI with a child: State jail felony
- Leaving a child in the car: Class C misdemeanor
State jail felonies can result in up to two years in prison. You could also end up paying over $10,000 in fines. A first-degree felony is the most serious crime, which means you could be sentenced anywhere from 5 to 99 years in prison. Simple abandonment with the intent to return could result in anywhere from six months to two years in jail.
Child Neglect Versus Child Abuse: What’s the Difference?
Child abuse and child neglect are very different crimes. Child abuse happens when a child is intentionally injured either physically, mentally or sexually. Neglect, on the other hand, happens when the injury is not necessarily intentional but due to a failure to reasonably care for the child.
It’s also important to understand that Texas has mandatory reporting rules in place. Anyone who suspects child abuse or child neglect is occurring must report their suspicions to the authorities. If someone doesn’t report it, then they could be charged with a crime, too! A failure to report child abuse or neglect is considered a Class A misdemeanor, which means the person could face up to a year in jail. If someone else reports you for child neglect, then please understand that they were likely obligated to do so under state law.
What Will Happen to My Child If I’m Charged with Child Neglect?
If you are facing child neglect charges, then you’re likely worried about what will happen to you and your family. Aside from the criminal charges, you can also expect a full-scale investigation by Child Protective Services.
Here’s what to expect during the investigation:
- Interview with you and your family
- Visit and inspection of your home
- Examination of your children for any injuries or health-related issues
- Review of your child’s medical and school records
- Request for copies of past police reports
- Medical or physical evaluation of your child
You may think an investigation by CPS won’t matter because they won’t find any evidence of physical neglect. Don’t make the mistake of making such a grave error! In Texas, state laws sometimes allow CPS to take your child from your home even without any physical evidence or proof of neglect or abuse. You could also be subject to strict CPS monitoring even when no evidence is found that you were neglectful.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
Due to the severity of child neglect charges and the potential for CPS to get involved, it’s crucial to hire an attorney when you’ve been accused. No parent wants their child to get subjected to the state’s child welfare system. Federal experts consistently agree that the system, unfortunately, exposes children to harm.
Our law firm will help you every step of the way. From defending yourself against child neglect charges to undergoing a CPS investigation, we’ll ensure you and your family’s rights are upheld.
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Understanding Child Neglect in Texas: How to Defend Yourself
Child neglect charges are taken very seriously by the state of Texas. If you get accused, then you and your family will get subject to an investigation by CPS. You’ll also face criminal penalties including potential jail time, fines, or even the loss of your parental rights.
Our experienced criminal defense attorneys want to help you and your family. We’ll work hard to ensure the best possible legal outcome in your situation. If you’re ready to get started on a defense strategy, then reach out to our attorneys today.