There are two degrees of child abuse under state law, and both are felonies. First degree abuse occurs when a parent or other adult with permanent or temporary care or custody of a child causes abuse that results in death or serious injury. Serious has a very specific definition under the law, and the state must prove this element beyond a reasonable doubt. The state can do this by introducing evidence of brain injury, bleeding within the skull, or starvation. The state may also prove serious injury using evidence that proves the defendant’s conduct created a substantial risk of death or if the conduct caused disfigurement, the loss of function of a bodily organ, or the impairment of a bodily organ. First degree child abuse may result in the defendant being held without bail or with an extremely high bail. It also carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison. There have been numerous first degree abuse cases where the evidence used to charge the defendant was insufficient or flawed, but due to the severity of the injury, and the emotional nature of the crime charges were filed. A skilled criminal lawyer will be able to thoroughly examine and challenge the state’s case, and could be the only thing standing between the defendant and jail time.
Second degree child abuse is by no means a minor crime in Maryland, but rather is a serious felony with a maximum jail sentence of 15 years. Any household member may be charged with second degree abuse as opposed to just persons responsible for the child’s care. This crime requires that the state prove a minor sustained a physical injury as a result of cruel or inhumane treatment. If the state cannot prove a serious physical injury, they may still be able to secure a guilty verdict with evidence of past conduct, which indicated the minor’s health or welfare was harmed or threatened. This is a rather general description and may include a variety of conduct. It is often the discretion of the police officer that responds to the scene, or the child protective services officer whether charges will be filed, and both typically err on the side of filing. Do not gamble with a felony conviction and a lengthy jail sentence. Call to set up a meeting at our main office in Baltimore, or wherever you reside in the state, and let us fight to regain your reputation and preserve your freedom.