Were You Charged with California Crime Felony Child Abuse Under Penal Code 273d?

California’s penal code distinguishes between several different crimes involving the neglect or abuse of children.  Some of these crimes are misdemeanors, while others are charged as felonies, which are more serious and have greater consequences.  Child abuse can be charged as a felony under Cal. Penal Code § 273d, exposing the defendant to devastating penalties if he or she is found guilty.

What Must the Prosecutor Prove for a Defendant to Be Convicted of Felony Child Abuse in California?

A person in California can be charged with committing felony child abuse under Cal. Penal Code § 273d when, allegedly, he or she “willfully inflicts upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition.”
The prosecutor must prove every part of this definition, beyond a reasonable doubt.  Therefore, it’s important to understand what each element of the offense means.  Here are the facts a prosecutor must establish in order for the defendant to be found guilty of felony child abuse in Santa Barbara or Ventura County:

  • The victim was a child.  That means the victim must have been 17 or younger at the time of the alleged crime.  Injuring an adult could result in assault charges, but does not meet the definition of child abuse for obvious reasons.
  • You acted willfully, which means that your actions were intentional and deliberate, not negligent or accidental.
  • Your intentional actions either:
    • Involved “cruel and inhuman corporal punishment,” which, though not explicitly defined by the statute, could include punishments like hitting, kicking, choking, biting, slapping, punching, whipping, burning, scalding, or shaking a child.  Spanking is generally not considered cruel and inhuman corporal punishment, unless it exceeds reasonable discipline.
    • Resulted in a “traumatic condition” for the victim, which is defined to mean an injury or other condition that was inflicted through use of force (“a wound, or… injury, including, but not limited to, injury as a result of strangulation or suffocation, whether of a minor or serious nature, caused by a physical force”).


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Ventura County Criminal Penalties for Abusing Children

The penalties for felony child abuse in California can be severe.  Under Cal. Penal Code § 273d(a), a defendant who is convicted can be sentenced to either two years, four years, or six years.

Additionally, if the defendant has a prior conviction of child abuse, his or her sentence can receive a four-year enhancement under Cal. Penal Code § 273d(b), which means the sentence can be extended by another four years.  However, there are some restrictions.  For example, the current sentence cannot be enhanced if the defendant completed his or her prior sentence at least 10 years ago, as long as he or she was not incarcerated for any other felonies during the past 10 years.  Ultimately, the length of the sentence depends on factors like the defendant’s criminal history and the severity of victim’s injuries.

In addition to receiving a prison sentence, the defendant can also be fined up to $6,000.

If the court decides to grant probation, which means the defendant will be supervised but not incarcerated, the probationary period must last three years at minimum, with some exceptions.  During this time, the probationer will be expect to comply with a long list of rigid rules.  Breaking these rules is a violation of probation, which can result in the probationer being sent to prison or facing other penalties.

Call Our Santa Barbara Defense Attorneys if You Were Accused of Abusing Your Son or Daughter

Prosecutors are extremely aggressive when it comes to offenses against children.  If you are found guilty, you could be sentenced to many years in prison, in addition to being ordered to pay costly criminal fines.  If you’re a teacher, a guidance counselor, a daycare worker, or work in another profession involving children, a conviction of child abuse could effectively end the career you’ve worked so hard to build.  It could also have disastrous implications for child custody.

You risk losing your job, your reputation, your family, and your freedom itself – everything you value and cherish.  However, skilled legal representation by a Ventura County child abuse attorney improves your odds of receiving a more lenient sentence, being found not guilty, or even having the charges dropped or the case dismissed.

The California defense attorneys of Bamieh & De Smeth have handled many cases involving parents, teachers, babysitters, and coaches who were accused of abusing children.  We know what types of strategies to use when defending these complex cases.  There are a number of possible defenses that may be raised, such as the accidental infliction of injury, or false accusations by a former spouse.

To set up a free, completely confidential legal consultation, call The Law Offices of Bamieh & De Smeth, PLC at (805) 643-5555.  We represent mothers, fathers, grandparents, and others who have been accused of child abuse in Santa Paula, Santa Maria, Moorpark, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, Camarillo, Lompoc, Goleta, and other area locations.

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