By: Attorney Erin Dohnalek
In Georgia, the offense of cruelty to children is broken down into three different degrees, depending on the severity of the alleged abuse. Because of the consequences of such a serious crime, it is vitally important to understand the offense, as well as your individual rights when dealing with such allegations.
According to O.C.G.A. § 16-5-70, first-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child, under the age of eighteen, willfully deprives the child of necessaries to the extent that the child’s well-being is jeopardized. Additionally, conduct in which such person causes a minor child cruel or excessive physical or mental pain is considered first-degree child cruelty.
Second-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a child, with criminal negligence, causes a child, under the age of eighteen, cruel or excessive physical or mental pain. Additionally, third-degree cruelty to children occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person supervising a minor child acts in one of the following ways:
- Such person acts as the primary aggressor and intentionally allows a minor child to witness the commission of a forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery; or
- Such person, who is acting as the primary aggressor, knows that the minor child is present or knows that the child can either hear or see the act, commits the act of forcible felony, battery, or family violence battery.
The penalty for a conviction of first-degree cruelty to children in Clayton County, Georgia is a prison sentence between 5-20 years. For second-degree cruelty to children, the prison term is anywhere between 1-10 years. Alternatively, if a person is convicted of third-degree cruelty to children, he/she may be sentenced to a misdemeanor penalty, depending on his/her past criminal history. If the person has never been convicted of third-degree cruelty to children or has only been convicted once in the past, he/she may be sentenced to a misdemeanor penalty. However, if such person has been convicted in the past more than twice for the same offense then he/she will be sentenced to a felony prison term between 1-3 years and/or a fine of no less than $1,000, but no more than $5,000.
Due to the severity of the punishment, as well as the collateral consequences for a charge of cruelty to children, it is vitally important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to defend you against such allegations and who also understands all the possible defenses to such a charge. Some defenses to cruelty to children include, but are not limited to:
- Accident, if it did not result from the person’s recklessness or criminal negligence;
- Parent’s right to discipline, if reasonable; and
- Actual innocence or false allegations.
At the Law Offices of W. Scott Smith, our lawyers are trained to know all affirmative defenses for the offense of cruelty to children, as well as all possible options for an accused dealing with such a serious charge. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been arrested for cruelty to children in Clayton County, please call our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation.