If you are facing a child abuse charge in North Carolina, you need to understand what the law states and what the charges involve. Let’s look at the law first.
What Constitutes Child Abuse in North Carolina
Child abuse charges encompass these various behaviors toward a minor:
- Physical abuse: inflicting, allowing to be inflicted, or creating a significant risk for injury, besides what could occur by accident
- Emotional abuse: use of abusive language, grossly inappropriate behavior, or cruel treatment, including abusive attempts at behavior modification
- Sexual abuse: rape, incest, molestation, exposing a child to obscene material, or using a child to produce obscene materials
- Exploitation: trafficking a child for purchase or surrender, or exploiting a child for sexual purposes
- Neglect: failing to provide adequate supervision, proper nutrition, or medical care
If injury is inflicted or allowed to occur upon a child younger than 16 years old, a class A1 misdemeanor charge applies. Additional charges may be added to a child abuse charge if evidence of sexual misconduct is found or if a civil case is also filed.
North Carolina’s Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Rules
Any person who has a basis to believe a child is being abused or neglected is legally required to report the case to the Department of Social Services in the child’s county of residence. Failure to report could result in a class 1 misdemeanor charge. Those responsible for reporting include:
- Parent, legal guardian, or caretaker of a minor
- Doctors and hospital workers
- School principals
- Anyone hired to process photographic images who processes an image of a minor engaged in sexual conduct
- Anyone else who has contact with the minor
How can they know that a child is being abused unless they see it firsthand? Kids may exhibit several warning signs. The more of these signs that are present, the more likely the child is experiencing abuse or neglect.
- Sudden behavioral changes
- Sudden drop in academic or athletic performance
- Physical injury has not been given medical attention
- Bruises, marks, burns, or broken bones with no reasonable explanation
- Inappropriate sexual behavior or knowledge for their age
- Overly cautious or paranoid behavior
- Extreme compliance
- Unwillingness to go home
- Significant fear around adults
- Uses alcohol or drugs
- Steals food or money from peers
- Lacks necessary clothing or shoes
- Makes statements that no adults are present at home
- Makes statements regarding violence at home
- Makes statements regarding substance abuse by adults at home
Additionally, here are some signs that an adult may be abusing or neglecting a child:
- Lacks clear and regular communication with school
- Shows extreme criticism toward child
- Expects unreasonably high academic standards for child
- Offers no reasonable excuse for child’s injuries
- Abuses alcohol or drugs
- Appears depressed or irrational
- Displays lack of concern for child
What Happens Once a Child Abuse Case Is Opened – and What Should You Do?
After someone files a report, the Department of Social Services sends a social worker to visit the child’s home. They will interview the parent, child, other residents of the home, neighbors, and possibly family members or teachers. The social worker is legally permitted to speak to the child without parental permission. He or she is legally mandated to file a report of any mistreatment, then charges may be filed.
If you have been accused of child abuse, make sure to seek legal counsel immediately. Your reputation and future are at stake, and you can count on an experienced lawyer to help you. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.
About the Author:
Jan Elliott Pritchett?is Managing Partner at the Law Firm of?Schlosser & Pritchett?and one of North Carolina’s top rated criminal defense attorneys. With a practice dedicated 100% to litigation, Mr. Pritchett protects the legal rights of clients who have been charged in federal and state criminal matters, as well as DUI/DWi, motor vehicle accidents, personal injury, and traffic violations. In practice since 1995, Mr. Pritchett has earned a reputation as a highly talented and fearless lawyer, being listed among the state’s “Legal Elite” and recognized as one of the Top 100 DWI Lawyers in North Carolina by the National Advocacy of DUI Defense.? He currently serves as the Co-Chairman of the North Carolina State Board of Legal Specialization, Criminal Law Specialty, and Vice-Chairman of the North Carolina Bar Association, Criminal Justice Section.