Being falsely accused of child abuse can ruin lives and professional careers. More recent publicized events have highlighted situations in which authorities failed to protect children by not intervening fast enough. Unfortunately for the accused this now often means that the authorities will act first and ask questions later. More often than not child abuse allegations start with a complaint to law enforcement filed by someone outside the home. Often charges of child abuse or child endangerment arise after a complaint started by a “mandated reporter.” A mandated reporter in the child abuse context can be a teacher, a caretaker, a pediatric nurse or other professional who has regular contact with children in the course of their work. The law imposes on people within such professions the duty to report suspected physical abuse, sexual abuse or any other type of abuse or evidence of neglect. For the purposes of fulfilling the mandated reporting laws, abuse is typically suspected when the child seems to have suffered physical injury other than in an accidental way, has injuries or has other signs of a condition resulting from abuse or neglect. Such conditions may include sexual molestation, physical exploitation, and even malnutrition.
Once possible child abuse or child neglect is reported, more than one government agency may be involved in the investigation. One of the first agencies to investigate such allegations is the local county Child Protective Services (CPS) agency. If you are contacted by the Contra Costa CPS agency, the San Mateo CPS agency, the Santa Clara CPS agency, the Alameda CPS agency, the Marin CPS agency or the San Francisco CPS agency you need to call us for a consultation. CPS officials may make unannounced visit, sometimes accompanied by a law enforcement officer. If you find yourself in such a situation contact our office immediately to speak with an experienced attorney. Your parental rights as well as your freedom may be in danger.
Child Protective Services (CPS) is the major system of intervention of child abuse and neglect in California. Existing law provides services to abused and neglected children and their families. Although the stated goal of CPS is to keep the child in his/her own home when it is safe, and when the child is at risk and to develop an alternate plan as quickly as possible, the system does unfortunately not work very well. The stated goal of our justice system if to punish the guilty and not the innocent yet innocent people are unjustly affected by the system too often.
In California any person who, under such circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, on purpose causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts on the child unjustifiably physical pain or mental suffering is to be punished by imprisonment. Also any person who cares or has custody of a child, on purpose causes or permits the child or the health of the child to be injured, or on purpose causes or permits that child to be placed in a situation where the child or the child’s health is endangered, is to be punished by imprisonment.
Punishment for persons convicted of child abuse range from probation to imprisonment for up to six years. Additionally, persons convicted may be subject to restraining orders, required to complete a child abuse treatment and counseling program, and pay any required fees while on probation or in counseling. Being charged with child molestation or other sexual misconduct involving children carries significantly harsher punishment up to and including life imprisonment.
If you have been contacted by a CPS official or an officer in regard to alleged abuse of a child you must take these allegations seriously and call our office immediately. Depending on the case, many times such accusations are a result of mistaken beliefs on the part of the reporting party. Child abuse cases can be complex and emotionally charged. Our team of attorneys can evaluate your case and explore the best options for saving your freedom and your reputation. By working with our team of experienced investigators, we may well be able to preserve favorable evidence, present favorable evidence and intervene before charges are even filed by the prosecutors.