Unlawful Conduct Toward a Child in Columbia

In South Carolina, both child abuse and child neglect fall under unlawful conduct toward a child. In South Carolina, Code § 63-5-70 classifies this as a felony offense. Unfortunately, this offense often times be misused to threaten the stability of families instead of protecting children from abuse.

When you are a suspect in a child abuse or neglect case, it would be in your best interest to contact an attorney who handles cases of unlawful conduct toward a child. These charges can potentially destroy a defendant’s life, even if they are later shown to be unfounded. A conviction can ruin many relationships, impact employment, and affect the relationship between the parent and child. A domestic violence attorney can be a huge help in assessing the situation and determining the best course of action.

Child Abuse

The easiest way to understand the difference between child abuse and child neglect is to simplify it down to active and passive mistreatment of a child. If a person who is responsible for a child’s welfare commits active abuse when they cause bodily harm to the child. Not all physical harm counts, the bodily harm must be unlawful or malicious. In addition, the harm must be sufficient to threaten the child’s health or life.

State law recognizes different levels of child abuse. Cruelty to children is a misdemeanor offense with a punishment of up to 30 days in jail. Unlawful conduct toward a child is a felony with a punishment of up to 10 years in prison. The most severe offense is homicide by child abuse.

From a practical perspective, South Carolina permits the physical discipline of children. Physical discipline can be significant if it does not threaten a child’s life or physical health. If the state accuses a defendant of unlawful physical abuse toward a child, a Columbia attorney may argue that the physical violence fell under the umbrella of safe and appropriate physical discipline.

Child Neglect

Neglect is a more passive approach to abuse. Still, it could be more life-threatening than the application of physical violence. South Carolina Code § 63-5-80 covers this form of cruelty to children. It includes depriving children of sustenance or shelter and inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering on a child.

Child neglect is a serious charge. However, it is also situationally dependent on circumstances. Impoverished families may struggle to provide sustenance, shelter, and medical care without the intent to harm their child. The family may need access to resources instead of criminal penalties, which take more resources away from the family.

Consulting with a Columbia defense attorney with experience handling charges of unlawful conduct toward a child is essential. They can work with child welfare professionals to discuss what systemic socioeconomic factors may have contributed to the neglect. If the family can get assistance with those factors, prosecutors may be willing to dismiss the charges.

Civil Consequences of Child Abuse or Neglect Charges

When a parent faces child abuse charges, they may also face civil proceedings. Civil cases may seek to remove children from their parents, placing them in foster homes. Even if the state does not bring a civil case, other parents or family members may take legal action seeking custody of the child.

This can be a complicated situation for the family. Generally, civil trials will occur before criminal trials. Defendants may want or need to testify at those civil trials. However, that testimony can be used against them at a criminal trial. In addition, if there are discrepancies between the testimony in the two trials, the prosecution can use that to show that someone lied under oath. An attorney can help defendants in Columbia navigate the civil and criminal aspects of cases involving unlawful conduct toward a child.

Call a Columbia Attorney About Charges of Unlawful Conduct Toward a Child

Since cases of this severity can have significant criminal and civil consequences, it is essential to retain seasoned legal representation. False or mistaken allegations of child abuse are not uncommon. Even when allegations of abuse are true, they may not reflect malice or ill will. Child abuse is cyclical, and many perpetrators need intervention and help, not punishment. A Columbia attorney who handles cases of unlawful conduct towards a child can help you find the best resolution for your family. Call today for a free case evaluation.