Being charged with sexual abuse is a serious offense in North Carolina. This crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. If convicted, you can face harsh penalties and a permanent criminal record. In addition, you may only be allowed limited contact—if any—with your children. You may be able to avoid these severe penalties if you retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you build a strong defense to the charges you face.
Child Abuse Misdemeanor Offenses in North Carolina
Both parents and others caring for children can be charged with child abuse as a misdemeanor in North Carolina. Two common offenses include:
- N.C.G.S. § 14-316.1. Under this statute, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for anyone 16 years or older to knowingly or intentionally cause, encourage, or aid a juvenile to be determined to be delinquent, undisciplined, abused, or neglected. On December 1, 2019, a person must be at least 18 years old to be charged with this offense. A person does not need to be a parent or caregiver of the child to be charged with this offense.
- N.C.G.S. § 14-318.2. It is a crime for a parent of a child under 16 years old or person caring for or supervising a child to inflict physical injury, allow physical injury to be inflicted, or to create a risk of physical injury to a child in a way other than accidental means. Unlike the prior statute section, this crime only applies to a parent or caregiver. It is a Class A1 misdemeanor offense, which is the most serious misdemeanor offense.
Abuse is defined as physical injury, putting the child in risk of physical injury, sexual assault, emotional abuse, and encouraging acts involving moral turpitude. It is considered neglect for a parent, guardian, custodian, or caregiver to fail to provide proper care, supervision, or discipline.
North Carolina has a complicated sentencing system. Depending on the person’s prior criminal history and other factors, he could be sentenced to an Active, Intermediate, or Community sentence. The maximum sentence for a Class 1 misdemeanor is 120 days and 150 days for a Class A1 misdemeanor. A parent may lose custody of his child or only may only be allowed supervised visitation. In addition, a person could be listed on the North Carolina Sex Offense Registry.
When You Could Be Charged With Child Abuse as a Felony
A parent or person who provides supervision or care of a child under 16 years old can also face felony charges. There are a number of child abuse offenses that a person could be charged with committing:
- Physical injury. It is a Class D felony to intentionally inflict serious physical injury on a child or intentionally assault a child that results in him suffering serious physical injury. Any physical injury that causes great pain and suffering or serious mental abuse is considered a serious physical injury.
- Bodily, emotional, or mental injury. If a child suffered a serious bodily injury or permanent or protracted loss or impairment of a mental or emotional function as a result of a person’s intentional act, he can be charged with a Class B2 felony.
- Willful act or gross negligence. When an intentional act cannot be proven, a person can be charged with a Class G felony for committing a willful act or grossly negligent omission that establishes a reckless disregard for human life and a child suffers serious physical injury. It is elevated to a Class E felony if the child suffers serious bodily injury.
- Prostitution. It is a Class D felony to commit the crime of child abuse by prostitution. This can be charged if a person commits, permits, or encourages prostitution with or by a child.
Sentencing for felonies is also very complicated in North Carolina and can involve a lengthy prison sentence. Here is the range of possible sentences for child abuse felony convictions:
- 94 to 393 month prison sentence for Class B2 felonies
- 38 to 160 months prison sentence for Class D felonies
- 15 to 63 month prison sentence for Class E felonies
- 8 to 31 months prison sentence for Class G felonies
A person can also lose custody of the child and any rights to visitation. Depending on the offense, he must also have to register on the NC Sex Offender Registry for life.
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