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Child Abuse in NJ: Penalties, Degrees, and Charges

Child abuse is a serious crime that can have many legal and non-legal repercussions. On the non-legal side of things, child abuse can cause severe problems for a family and a child, potentially causing the child to grow up with PTSD or other mental health issues caused by their childhood trauma. It can also help perpetuate the cycle of violence, potentially leading them to become criminals or abusers as they grow up. It can also have serious legal consequences including jail time and criminal fines for the abuser, and it can lead to having the parent’s custody and parental rights stripped away.

If you were accused of child abuse in New Jersey, our New Jersey child abuse defense lawyers may be able to help you avoid charges and fight to stay out of jail. For a free legal consultation and more information about your charges and about child abuse laws in New Jersey, read through this guide and contact our attorneys today. The Law Offices of John J. Zarych can be reached at (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation.

What is Considered Child Abuse in NJ?

New Jersey has two general types of child abuse crimes. First is the offense of child abuse itself. This is a fourth degree crime that can lead to jail time and fines, and it is defined specifically to cover the abuse of a child under 18. Second, there are other charges that could be filed against an adult who abuses a child, such as charges for assault, sexual assault, endangering the welfare of children, or other crimes.

The Crime of Child Abuse in NJ

The crime of child abuse can be found under N.J.S.A. § 9:6-3. This crime makes it illegal to “abuse, abandon, be cruel to or neglectful of” a child. This crime can apply to people who have “care, custody or control of” a child or to anyone else who happens to commit these acts against a child.

What qualifies as “abuse” is defined under N.J.S.A. § 9:6-1. This statute covers the terms “abuse,” “cruelty,” and “neglect,” giving each one a definition. Other statutes, like § 9:6-3 then use these definitions to establish criminal penalties. These definitions are quite broad and can include any of the following acts as “abuse”:

  • Leaving a child without giving up custody in the proper way
  • Forcing a child to perform dangerous or morally questionable labor
  • Repeatedly using “profane, indecent or obscene language” around the child
  • Harming the child’s morals by performing bad acts in front of the child
  • “Using excessive physical restraint” (e.g., locking the child up or tying the child down)

“Cruelty” is defined separately, but it is punished in the same way as “abuse”:

  • Using “unnecessarily severe corporal punishment”
  • Causing a child “unnecessary” physical or mental pain and suffering
  • “[T]ormenting” a child
  • Performing a “willful act” or omission that causes a child mental or physical pain and suffering
  • Exposing a child to “unnecessary” issues like pain and hardship

Lastly, “neglect” is defined as the following when committed by someone with custody or care of a child:

  • Not providing food, shelter, clothes, etc.
  • Failing to help “the child’s physical or moral well-being”
  • Putting a child in an institution unnecessarily

Many accusations of child abuse come from people who see a parent’s healthcare decisions as dangerous for a child. If those healthcare decisions are based on the parent’s religion and do not violate other laws, these decisions should not be considered abuse or neglect under the protections contained in N.J.S.A. § 9:6-1.1.

Other Child Abuse Crimes in NJ

In addition to these charges, you can face charges for other crimes if they happen to be committed against a child. This can include violent or sexually violent crimes, such as the following:

  • Simple assault
  • Aggravated assault
  • Robbery
  • Attempted murder
  • Endangering the welfare of a child
  • Sexual assault
  • Criminal sexual contact

If these crimes are committed against a child over 18 who still lives in your household, they could be considered “domestic violence” crimes. This can lead to increased penalties and legal issues as well, such as restraining orders.

Degrees of Child Abuse Crimes in New Jersey

The crime of child abuse in NJ is a fourth degree crime. This means that the crime can carry fines up to $10,000 and jail time up to 18 months in prison. In addition, you could face other penalties, such as restraining orders against you or being stripped of child custody and visitation rights.

Other charges for abusing or injuring a child could involve higher penalties depending on the grading of the crime. The following are the penalties for each level of offense in New Jersey:

  • First degree crimes: 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000
  • Second degree crimes: 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000
  • Third degree crimes: 3-5 years in prison and fines up to $15,000
  • Fourth degree crimes: up to 18 months in prison and fines up to $10,000
  • Disorderly persons offenses: up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000

How Do You Fight Child Abuse Charges in NJ?

Overcoming child abuse charges can be an uphill battle. There is often little chance of claiming self-defense, especially if the child is small or underage. However, there may be many instances where the government should not intrude on private family decisions, and a parent’s right to discipline their child or care for them how they see fit should be respected.

Our attorneys work to protect our client’s parental rights by ensuring that the legal definitions of “abuse” are properly applied and fighting charges for child abuse that do not rise to the level of a crime. We also work to protect our clients from unreasonable search and seizure and stop charges that stem from police officers illegally entering homes or responding to false complaints or allegations without probable cause.

Call Our Atlantic City Child Abuse Lawyers Today

Our Atlantic City child abuse defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych fight to protect our clients’ rights by working to get unjustified child abuse charges dropped and dismissed. To schedule a free legal consultation on your charges, contact our law offices today at (609) 616-4956.