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Child Abuse and Injury to a Child

In addition to purposely causing physical injury to a child, a wide range of conduct can be classified as “child abuse” in Texas. You could be charged with child abuse if you failed to act to prevent an injury to a child. You may also be charged with child abuse for conduct that results in a “serious mental injury, deficiency, or impairment” to a child, even if no physical injury occurs. Penalties are severe for convictions of child abuse, and may even result in life in prison.

Austin Child Abuse Lawyer

If you are facing charges of child abuse or any similar criminal offense in Travis County, you need an experienced lawyer on your side. Kevin Bennett represents those accused of child abuse. The Law Office of Kevin Bennett can represent you in both the criminal charges and in any related court proceedings that may stem from the accusations.

Kevin Bennett always keeps open communications with his clients about the matters facing them. He aims to help you understand what is happening to you during these harrowing and frightening times. Call The Law Office of Kevin Bennett today at (512) 476-4626 to set up your free consultation.

Kevin Bennett represents people throughout Travis County, including Austin, Lago Vista, Pflugerville, and Lakeway.


Travis County Injury to a Child Information Center


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Definition of Child Abuse in Texas

Texas Penal Code § 22.04 defines child abuse as anything which intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence causes an injury to a child age 14 or younger.  Injury includes not just bodily injuries, but also “serious mental injury, deficiency, or impairment.”

In some instances, you can be charged with child abuse for intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly failing to take action to prevent an injury to a child. If you have a legal duty to act—for example if you are a parent, or you have assumed care, custody, or control of a child—you can be charged with child abuse for failing to act to prevent an injury to a child age 14 or younger. 

Texas law defines a person who has “assumed care, custody, or control” as a person who has by act, words, or course of conduct acted so as to cause a reasonable person to conclude that he has accepted responsibility for protection, food, shelter, and medical care for a child.  You may also be charged if you are an owner, operator, or employee of a group home of which the child is a resident.


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Penalties for Child Abuse in Texas

You may be convicted of child abuse as a first degree felony if a court finds you intentionally or knowingly:

  • Caused serious bodily injury to a child
  • Caused serious mental injury, deficiency, impairment or to a child

If convicted of child abuse as a first-degree felony, you face:

  • Up to life in prison, mandatory minimum of five years in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

You may be convicted of child abuse as a second-degree felony if a court finds you recklessly:

  • Caused serious bodily injury to a child
  • Caused serious mental injury, deficiency, impairment or to a child

If convicted of child abuse as a second-degree felony, you face:

  • Up to 20 years in prison, mandatory minimum of two years in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

You may be convicted of child abuse as a third-degree felony if a court finds you intentionally or knowingly caused bodily injury to a child.

If convicted of child abuse as a third-degree felony, you face:

  • Up to 10 years in prison, mandatory minimum of two years in prison
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

You may be convicted of child abuse as a state jail felony if a court finds you:

  • Recklessly caused bodily injury to a child
  • Negligently caused any bodily or mental injury to a child
  • Negligently, by failing to act, caused any bodily or mental injury to a child

If convicted of child abuse as a state jail felony, you face:

  • Up to two years in jail, mandatory minimum of six months in jail
  • Up to $10,000 in fines

A state jail felony may be upgraded to a third-degree felony if a court finds that you used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the offense or immediate flight from the offense, or if you have certain prior felony convictions.


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Defenses to Child Abuse Accusations in Texas

In is an affirmative defense to future accusations of child abuse by failure to act if you make it clear in a way that conforms to Texas law that you no longer have charge of the child. To do this, you must notify the child in person that you will no longer provide care to the child, and provide written notice to either the parents, a person (other than yourself) acting “in loco parentis” to the child, or the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. This written notice must contain:

  • Your name and address
  • The child's name and address
  • The type of care provided by you to the child
  • The date the care was discontinued

Providing medical care and treatment can also be an affirmative defense in situations of:

  • Reasonable medical care occurring by or under the direction of a licensed physician
  • Emergency medical care administered in good faith and with reasonable care by a person not licensed in the healing arts
  • Treatment in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized religious method of healing with a generally accepted record of efficacy

It is also a defense to accusations of child abuse by failure to act if there is no evidence that you were aware of the child's injury prior to the being charged with the offense.
You may also have a defense to accusations of child abuse by failure to act if you yourself were a victim of family violence, you did not personally cause the injury to the child, and you either:

  • Did not reasonably believe at the time that an effort to prevent to prevent another person from committing child abuse would have an effect
  • Were a child yourself at the time of the offense, not more than three years older than the victim

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Finding a Child Abuse Defense Attorney in Travis County

With such serious consequences, you'll want serious legal representation. Kevin Bennett is a skilled Austin child abuse defense lawyer who can represent you if you are charged with any charge of child abuse in Travis County, including in Manor, Oak Hill and Bee Cave. Call The Law Office of Kevin Bennett today at (512) 476-4626 to set up a consultation.