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By Benson Varghese

Published on: December 13th, 2015 at 10:20 AM
Last Updated: August 27th, 2020 at 9:17 PM

In Texas, injury to a child is a felony offense that can stem from minor bruises to unexplained death. Injury to a child charges are extremely serious and can result in prison time, loss of child custody, and media coverage.

It’s not uncommon for child abuse allegations to surface as a result of disciplinary issues, potty-training problems or even household accidents.  That’s why it’s extremely important to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as a child abuse accusation is made.

What is Injury to a Child in Texas?

Injury to a child can be found in Section 22.04 of the Texas Penal Code titled,  “Injury to a Child, Elderly Individual or Disabled Individual.” Obviously, this statue also applies to elderly and disabled individuals, as well as children.

An individual commits this offense if he or she intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligences, causes to a child:

  • serious bodily injury;
  • serious mental deficiency, impairment or injury; or
  • bodily injury.

Under this section of the Texas Penal Code, a child is a person age 14 or under.

What is the Punishment for Injury to a Child?

Injury to a child is a felony that can be classified as a first degree, second degree, third degree, or a state jail felony.  The degree of punishment depends on severity of the injury and the circumstances of the offense.

For example, intentionally or knowingly causing serious bodily injury or death to a child under 15 is a first degree felony, meaning a person can be sent to prison for life. On the other hand, causing serious bodily injury through criminal negligence is a state jail felony, punishable by up to two years in state jail.

Injury to a child is also unique because someone can be charged due to the “omission of” or failure to perform certain duties. This is unlike most offenses which required the “commission of” certain acts in order to be charged. For example, if a parent fails to protect their child from an abusive boyfriend or fails to seek medical attention for an injured child, they could face a charge of injury to a child by omission.

If you or a loved one has been charged with injury to a child, it’s best to contact a skilled and seasoned child abuse attorney to find out the potential consequences of your specific charge or allegations.

What’s the Difference between Bodily Injury and Serious Bodily Injury?

Bodily injury just means “it hurt.” That could be anything from mere pain without bruising to significant visible injuries like black eyes. Bodily injury is defined as physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition

An injury becomes “serious bodily injury” when there is an injury so significant that it creates a substantial risk of death or something that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of function bodily member or organ.

What’s the Difference between Capital Murder and Injury to a Child Causing Death?

To be charged with capital murder, the death must involve a child under the age of 10. With  injury to a child causing death, the child must have been age 14 or younger.

The other major difference between capital murder and injury to a child is the punishment. Injury to a child involving death is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison with parole eligibility after 30 years. Capital murder is punishable by death penalty or life in prison with no possibility of parole. If the state doesn’t seek the death penalty, the defendant will receive an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole if convicted.

What is Criminal Negligence?

A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, if he or she ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk or possible result. The Texas Penal Code goes on to state that the risk must be of such nature and degree that a failure to perceive it would constitute a gross deviation from the standard of care an ordinary person would have exercised under the same circumstances.

For example, a mother could potentially be charged with injury to a child by criminal negligence if she left the front door of the house open to let cool air in and a toddler wandered out into the street and was struck by a car. Another scenario might be a toddler falling into a pool after the back door was left open.

Can Daycare Owners and Operators be Charged with Injury to a Child?

The Penal Code specifically includes “owners, operators, or employees” of a day care facility when discussing injury to a child. So yes, it is not uncommon for daycare workers to be charged with injury to a child if they intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence by omission caused a child to be injured.

A person assumes care, custody, or control if—by his or her actions, words, or conduct—causes a reasonable person to conclude he or she has accepted responsibility for the protection, food, shelter, and medical care for a child, elderly, or disabled individual.

Owners, operators, or employees of daycare facilities are presumed to accept responsibility for the care, custody, or control of a child.

Is Injury to a Child a 3G Offense?

Injury to a child is a 3G offense when the offense is punishable as a felony of the first degree. Learn more about 3G offenses.

Are there Affirmative Defenses to Injury to a Child in Texas?

There are a number of defenses for injury to a child, including affirmative defenses. An affirmative defense allows a defendant to avoid legal responsibility by providing an excuse or justification for an act. For example, it is an affirmative defense if the actor, before the offense occurs, notified the child in person and the child’s parents (or person acting as parent) in writing that the actor would no longer provide care.

Below are some other affirmative defenses for injury to a child;

Notification of Termination of Care

It is also an affirmative defense if before the offense occurred, the actor notified the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services in writing that he would no longer provide care to the child.

Medical Care

It is a defense if the actor’s act or omission was considered reasonable medical care as directed by a licensed physician, or emergency medical care was given in good faith and with reasonable care by an unlicensed person.

Religious Methods

It is an affirmative defense that the act or omission was based on treatment as provided by a “recognized religious method of healing.”

Victims of Family Violence

If a person is charged with an act of omission causing serious injury or bodily injury to a child, it is a defense if:

  1. There is no evidence that, before the date of injury, the person was aware of an incident of injury to the child and failed to report the incident; and
  2. The person was a victim of family violence, he did not cause the injury, and he did not reasonably believe that an effort to prevent the injury would have an effect.

Actor Close in Age to Victim

It is an affirmative defense if the actor was no more than three years older than the victim at the time of the offense and the victim was a child at the time of the offense.

It is Illegal to Make a False Child Abuse Report?

False allegation of child abuse occur more often than you might think. We often see false allegations of child abuse in tumultuous family situations such as a bitter divorce or custody battle. Family Code Section 261.107 makes it a criminal offense to make a false report of child abuse or neglect. Specifically, a person can be charged with making a false report if, with the intent to deceive, the person made a report of child abuse that was false. A first offense is a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in a state jail facility and a maximum $10,000 fine. A subsequent offense is a third degree felony punishable by two to ten years in prison.

Contact a Injury to a Child Lawyer in Fort Worth

Are you facing allegations of causing injury to a child in Fort Worth? If so, time is of the essence. It’s important to reach out to a skilled and seasoned lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your rights and options. Our team has vast experience handling cases involving crimes against children, both as defense attorneys and former prosecutors. It is not uncommon for these charges to stem from accidents or mistakes. It’s extremely important for you case to get off on the right start. Call today for a free consultation.