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Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyers For Child Abuse, Elder Abuse And Hazing

Group Photo of Attorneys The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC

 

Fight for your side of the story when facing abuse charges.

Maryland law considers child, elder, and other types of abuse to be a breaking of the trust between one in power and a vulnerable victim. It is not kind or merciful to those it convicts of abuse.

If law enforcement suspects you of abuse, then you need to rely on a defense team that will fight for your side of the story to protect your family – and your future.

What Does Maryland Law Consider As Abuse?

In Maryland, abuse is the physical or mental injury of someone to the point where their health or wellbeing is “harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed.”

Abuse is a unique criminal charge, as it indicates that someone in a position of power and trust misused that authority to put another, vulnerable person in danger.

The legal definition is intentionally vague so as to cover a wide range of situations to best protect Marylanders from harm. That said, defendants can be caught up in those charges, even if they don’t deserve them.

You should know:

  • Abuse laws in Maryland primarily address abuse of children and “vulnerable adults.” Spousal and other forms of abuse are covered in other types of laws and statutes, such as aggravated assault charges and protective orders for domestic violence.
  • Financial, verbal, and other types of abuse can be considered by prosecutors while determining charges. (Those fall into “mental injury” and the “well-being” parts of the law.) Therefore, an alleged victim does not need to demonstrate physical harm to make a credible accusation of abuse to law enforcement.
  • Charges of abuse impact other legal cases such as divorce cases, custody negotiations, alimony determinations, and severity of other criminal charges, depending on the circumstances. For example, prosecutors may bring both child abuse and rape charges against a supervising adult family member – compounding the legal matters.

What Types Of Abuse Can Maryland Prosecutors Charge? Does That Include Child Abuse?

In Maryland, there are five different types of abuse charges that can be filed that specifically protect vulnerable populations. These include child abuse, neglect, and parts of elder law to protect them from unscrupulous caregivers.

Neglect of a minor abuse charges are filed when a family member, guardian, or household member “intentionally fail to provide the minor with necessary resources or assistance for the physical needs or health of the minor.”

Neglect of a minor charges could happen if a prosecutor believes the defendant did one or more of the following:

  • Failed to provide adequate shelter or food
  • Didn’t properly supervise the minor, leading them to put themselves in potential danger
  • Didn’t provide needed medical attention for the child, including withholding medication or not taking them to doctor’s visits

However, Maryland law protects those guardians who want to provide care for their child but are unable to due to homelessness or poverty.

Second-degree child abuse charges are filed when a family member, guardian, or household member “abuses” the child.

Prosecutors must prove that the alleged behavior fulfills three legal requirements before it can be charged as abuse:

  1. The act was “cruel and inhuman” or otherwise “malicious” in intent.
  2. The situation resulted in a physical injury of some kind.
  3. The incident presented a “threat or harm” to the child’s “health or welfare.”

First-degree child abuse charges are filed when abuse – as defined for second-degree child abuse – results in permanent or “severe injury” or death of the child.

Per Maryland law, a “severe injury” could be:

  • Starvation
  • Concussions
  • Serious and permanent “disfigurement”
  • “Loss of function” in any part of the child’s body

Sexual abuse of a minor charges are similar to other child rape and sexual offense charges, with the added complexity of a trusted guardian, family member, or household member being the accused perpetrator.

Maryland defines “sexual abuse” in this context to cover:

  • Rape
  • Sodomy
  • Incest
  • “Unnatural or perverted sexual practices”

Second-degree abuse / neglect of a vulnerable adult and first-degree abuse / neglect of a vulnerable adult charges are similar to that of child abuse statutes, though adapted for an elder or otherwise impaired adult population rather than a minor.

Legally determined abuse for vulnerable adult includes the same “cruel and inhuman” requirements as minors, but purposefully excludes medical procedures ordered by a health care provider within the scope of their practice.

That exclusion protects elder care and hospice workers from frivolous lawsuits filed by family members who disagree with some portion of their elder’s care – if it’s been ordered and administered by the correct health personnel.

For adults, neglect is defined as “failure to provide necessary resources and assistance,” including:

  • Adequate food, shelter, and clothing
  • Competent supervision – especially important if the adult in question experiences dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other mental diseases
  • “Necessary” medical treatments
  • Access to a toilet and help in the bathroom, if needed

Finally, while not abuse in the traditional sense, this section of Maryland’s laws does make academic “hazing” an illegal act in the state.

For an individual to be charged with hazing abuse, prosecutors must prove the defendant “intentionally and recklessly” acted or facilitated a situation in which another student could have been seriously hurt – all for the sake of initiation into a school-related organization.

What Are Abuse Sentences For Maryland Convictions?

Maryland laws and its courts do not take their responsibilities to protect the most vulnerable of its citizens lightly. Therefore, those convicted on any charges of abuse can expect significant prison time, fines, and harsh sentences.

  • Neglect of a minor – sentences are felony convictions with up to 15 years in prison. 
  • Second-degree child abuse – sentences are misdemeanor convictions with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 – for each violation.
  • First-degree child abuse – sentences are felony convictions with varying prison sentence maximums. If the child died, then they face up to 40 years in prison; if not, then 25 years.
  • Sexual abuse of a minor – sentences are felony convictions with up to 25 years in prison.
  • Second-degree abuse / neglect of a vulnerable adult – sentences are misdemeanor convictions with up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • First-degree abuse / neglect of a vulnerable adult – sentences are felony convictions with up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Hazing – sentences are misdemeanor convictions with up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500. (Of course, the schools involved may have other punishments, such as expulsion and other repercussions, for those convicted of hazing.)

Those with prior convictions of child abuse are punished especially harshly for a subsequent conviction. Whether it’s first or second degree, the sentence can go up to 25 years in prison if the child did not die – and 40 years if they did.

How Can Criminal Defense Lawyers Help Abuse Charges?

When you face serious criminal charges, you need a seriously capable criminal defense team.

Misunderstandings and differences in parenting styles can lead to bogus charges that Maryland state law enforcement has an obligation to investigate.

If another family member disagrees with the medical care that you have chosen for an elder member of your family through your legal power of attorney, then they can claim you’re “abusing” that individual.

Other legal disagreements over alimony, divorce, and custody can leave certain parties scrambling for justification of their outrageous demands. They may cry “abuse” to gain the sympathy of a Maryland court system designed to protect at-risk citizens.

But you, too, have a right for your side of the story to be heard. Don’t let the opposing party steamroller their accusations of abuse and neglect over your life and reputation. A great criminal defense lawyer will find these possible ulterior motives for the allegations and show the court your side of the story.

To get your fair and legal day in court, you’ll need to fight for it – even if you’re innocent. Protect your future and your family from abuse allegations by retaining your legal champion from JC Law.

“I was facing some serious charges. Every single day for three months that was all I had on my mind, and it’s especially hard when you feel as though you didn’t commit a crime. Then Mr. [Jim] Crawford gave me a call the night before court and told me he already had it all worked out – just be at the courthouse so I could sign a couple papers and then be on my way.”

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Group Photo of Attorneys The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC