Abusing, neglecting, or otherwise causing a child to suffer harm can have serious consequences in Mississippi. If you are facing criminal charges for child abuse it is important to speak with an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney immediately to help you fight child abuse charges.
What is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is broadly defined in Mississippi to include almost any behavior that causes or allows a child to be placed in danger or suffer. A parent, guardian, or other adult can be charged with child abuse, as defined in Mississippi Code § 97-5-39, if they:
- Willfully or negligently contribute to the neglect or delinquency of a child;
- Deprive a child of necessary food, clothing, shelter, health care, or supervision;
- Knowingly permit the physical or sexual abuse of a child;
- Intentionally burn, torture, whip, strike, or mutilate a child; and/or
- Endanger a child in such a way that results in substantial harm to that child's physical, mental, or emotional health.
Examples of Child Abuse
A parent, guardian, or other adult may face charges of child abuse or child endangerment for willfully and/or negligently causing a child to suffer harm as a result of:
- Physical assault and battery (e.g., hitting, slapping, poisoning, strangling),
- Inflicting or allowing a child to suffer sexual abuse,
- Genital mutilation,
- Neglect (e.g., not providing adequate food, shelter, and clothing),
- Failing to report known abuse,
- Selling drugs in the presence of a child, and
- Exposing a child to extreme temperatures as a punishment.
Penalties for Child Abuse in Mississippi
In Mississippi, conduct classified as child abuse can result in misdemeanor or felony criminal charges. The seriousness of any criminal charges for child abuse will depend on:
- The type of abusive behavior,
- The age of the child involved,
- The degree of harm suffered by the child, and
- The defendant's history of criminal behavior.
Felony Child Abuse
Intentionally causing or allowing a child to suffer bodily harm or neglect is a felony in Mississippi. The penalties depend on the specific abusive behaviors.
Depriving Food, Shelter, or Health Care: Punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
Knowingly Permitting Continued Physical or Sexual Abuse: Punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Intentionally Causing a Child to Suffer Serious Injury: First offense punishable by a maximum of ten years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Subsequent offenses punishable by life in prison.
Child Endangerment Resulting in Substantial Harm: Punishable by a maximum of 20 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.
Misdemeanor Child Abuse
Less serious and harmful acts of child abuse can be charged as misdemeanors. However, if these actions cause a child to suffer substantial harm, charges can be aggravated to felony child abuse.
Contributing to the Negligence or Delinquency of a Child: Punishable by one year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Selling Drugs in the Presence of a Child: Punishable by one year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Failure to Report Child Abuse: Punishable by one year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Fighting Child Abuse Charges in Mississippi
Just because you have been accused of child abuse does not mean that you will be convicted of the crime. The state must be able to prove that you are guilty of an act of child abuse beyond a reasonable doubt. You can prevent the state from building a strong case against you by hiring an experienced Mississippi criminal defense attorney to lead your defense. Contact Housley Law to request a free consultation.