If you have child abuse and neglect charges in Nebraska, you might not know where to turn for help.
The law presumes that you are innocent until proven otherwise.
But many people, such as police, prosecutors, and even some judges, assume you are guilty.
You should know that you’re not automatically guilty, even if it feels like that is what people are assuming. However, you need a tough, dependable, and experienced defense attorney to fight for you.
Nebraska child abuse and neglect defense lawyer Tom Petersen believes in the presumption of innocence.
He has handled over 6,000 cases in his 27 years of practice in Omaha, and he’s fought relentlessly to preserve the presumption of innocence for all his clients.
What Is Child Abuse and Neglect?
Sections 28-710 to 28-727 of the Nebraska Revised Statutes are the Child Protection and Safety Act (the Act).
Section 28-710 defines child abuse and neglect as intentionally, negligently, or knowingly causing or permitting a child to:
- Be placed into a situation where the child’s life or physical or mental health is endangered;
- Suffer cruel punishment or to be cruelly confined;
- Suffer deprivation of the necessities in life, including food, water, shelter, clothing, and care;
- Be left unattended in a vehicle if under six years of age;
- Be put into a situation where someone sexually assaults the child;
- Become a victim of sex trafficking after a parent put the child in that situation; and
- Be in a situation where becoming a trafficking victim is likely.
As you can see, this law covers several crimes that range from physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse to the dereliction of parental responsibilities.
These types of child abuse and neglect can lead to very serious criminal charges as well as family court proceedings.
Child Abuse Investigations
Doctors, nurses, police, teachers, and several other people are required by law to report suspected child abuse.
These professionals must report incidents of child abuse to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Child Protective Service (CPS).
Additionally, CPS indicates that every person in Nebraska who learns about child abuse has a legal obligation to report it.
After receiving a report, CPS investigators perform a safety assessment to ensure the child in question is safe.
If the investigator determines that current home conditions are unsafe, their first action is to devise a plan to keep the children safe in their home.
If that doesn’t seem possible, the investigator will remove the children from the unsafe home and into a safer environment.
CPS and the police often work closely together.
CPS investigators will contact the police for further investigation if they find evidence that a crime occurred. Even when CPS contacts the police for further investigation, some evidence of neglect may not amount to a crime.
Conversely, evidence of physical abuse, cruel punishment, confinement, willful abandonment, and sexual abuse will prompt further criminal investigation. After a full investigation, criminal charges may arise.
Penalties for Child Abuse and Neglect
Under Nebraska Revised Statute Section 28-707, child abuse charges can range from a Class I misdemeanor to a Class IB felony, depending on the facts of the case.
Child abuse would be a Class I misdemeanor if the parent’s criminal negligence resulted in abuse. Child abuse becomes a Class IIIA felony if the parent committed the offense knowingly and intelligently, but the injuries did not result in serious bodily injury or death.
Child abuse is also a Class IIIA felony if the child suffers serious injury as a result of a criminally negligent act. Criminally negligent child abuse that causes death is a Class IIA felony.
Child abuse would be a Class II felony if the child suffered serious bodily injury from intentional misconduct.
Finally, child abuse is a Class IB felony when an abused child dies as a result of intentional misconduct.
Abandonment of a child is also a crime. According to Nebraska Revised Statutes Section 28-705, abandonment of a child occurs when the parent intentionally refuses to provide for a child.
Additionally, failing to provide for the dependent child for three consecutive months is evidence of intentional abandonment. Abandonment is a Class I misdemeanor.
Under this law, dependents are children under 16 years of age and are biological children, including children born out of wedlock, and dependent stepchildren.
You should be aware that these are crimes you could face in addition to other crimes like assault and battery or sexual abuse of a minor.
What Is Criminal Negligence in Nebraska?
Negligence in this context is not ordinary negligence. Instead, Nebraska law refers to it as criminal negligence.
Criminal negligence occurs when a person either knew or should have known the danger involved in a particular action and recklessly acted without regard for the safety and health of the child.
The term recklessly means disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk or a gross deviation from the conduct of a law-abiding citizen.
Serious bodily injury is one that has a substantial risk of causing death, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of a body part or bodily organ.
Omaha Child Abuse and Neglect Defense Lawyer
Criminal defense lawyer Tom Petersen and his team at Petersen Criminal Law are available 24 hours a day to protect your rights.
Petersen Criminal Law offers free one-on-one consultations. From your initial consultation until your case is over, Tom will use his vast experience to give you the best shot at avoiding a conviction.
Contact Petersen Criminal Law today at 402-317-5564 for immediate help.