Child Abuse and Molestation are two of the worst crimes a person can commit. However, there is one other that is even worse: Falsely accusing a person of such horrible crimes. So, let's discuss these crimes a bit. While they are often thought of and discussed as similar in nature, they are very different in terms of Georgia law. First, let's discuss child abuse.
What is Child Abuse?
Child abuse can be committed in ways most folks would not believe. The worse cases can no doubt bring up images of horror and evil. Some instances of child abuse occur as a result of sudden, emotional displays of physical energy at or in the presence of young children. Many involve alcohol and/or drugs. Many cases of child abuse come by way of care-giver ignorance or just plain negligence. Common examples of this negligence often include car seats or unlocked fences and doors. By far, the most common accusations or suggestions of child abuse are the result of an accident. Nonetheless, every day children are removed from parental homes as a result of minimal and negligent investigations by poorly trained authorities. Sometimes, it simply boils down to simple abuse of authority and over-sensitivity to social issues.
There was a time, not so long ago, that the noble and righteous thought of always acting “in the best interest of the child,” was placed only with judges. That was done, in part because it was believed that judges from biblical times forward possessed the temperaments and experiences needed to solve complex social issues. Judges had a stabilized mental thought process to balance the requirements of law and considerations of equity before disrupting the lives of other human beings. Judges were and are able to consider all of the factors involved before exercising the temporary or permanent separation of parents and child, child and siblings, fathers and mothers. The model of the “American family” had greater value, in and of itself to be respected by laws, institutions and judges everywhere.
Two Sides to Every Story
With that noble thought in mind, someone at some time in some place, probably in some government agency has a thought, “Hey, let's give all of our people – agencies and law enforcers – that same noble thought: ‘In the best interest of the child.'” Well, what could be wrong with that? Who can argue with that? Likely no one. But there was this one little problem out there: What do we do the age old problem of “two sides to every story?” That universal little problem always seemed to create some conflict between our people and our institutions. There are laws out there, right?
Well, those same folks talked with experts from every social and psychological field and if no field existed, it was created. Complete government agencies were created by law. Directors were appointed, managers were hired, and the whole “believe the child” protocol got advertised, promoted, and funded. Everyone agreed to support the same ideals: Same mantra, act first, let the judges sort it out later, and, above all, “believe the child.” Given that agreement, teachers, coaches, day-care workers, doctors, nurses, counselors and even your pastor or priest got a new designation: “mandatory reporters.”
The governor's office became involved, created special study groups and more laws were passed whereby judges of every county in Georgia were required to appoint teams made up from the Sheriff, the judges, the prosecutor, the medical examiner, the child advocacy group, everyone involved in prosecuting suspected abusers, became part of the “Multi-Disciplinary Team.” Teamwork is a good thing, right?
New laws were made demanding cooperation by and participation in making official reports on official forms to officials with the Child Protective Services. Law enforcement were enforced under penalty of potential prison for up to a year for willful, non-reporting! Laws were created to provide official immunity to those making such reports created whole new areas for jobs in government agencies, jails, and prisons for the accused and convicted and hundreds of new foster homes.
Child Abuse According to the Law
A bruise here, a scape or cut there, and an immediate investigation occurs first at the school without parental presence and then a demand for an instant explanation by the care-givers or parents of these potentially abused children. Those same laws gave the most incredible power and authority to “trained” government workers to act immediately along certain accepted guide lines and promptly take and remove children from the care and custody of their parents. Temporarily, of course.
There are few exceptions to prompt mandatory reporting. Immediate action is expected upon receipt of reports and no such immediate appeal for the parent or caretaker. Not even for the child being removed. Besides, it's all being done in the “best interest of the child.”
Let's take a look at some of the Child abuse laws and see some the various ways to commit Child abuse.
The official Code of Georgia 19-7-5 states that child abuse means:
- Physical injury or death inflicted upon a child by a parent or caretaker thereof by other than accidental means; provided, however, that physical forms of discipline may be used as long as there is no physical injury to the child;
- Neglect or exploitation of a child by a parents or caretaker thereof;
- Endangering a child;
- Sexual abuse of a child; or
- Sexual exploitation of a child.
Now, it further defines a child as anyone under 18 years old. I know, a number of questions are coming to mind. Save that for later. Each section noted above carries with it its own definitions and possible punishments, but suffice it to say that by violating these laws subjects a person to sentences for up to life in prison. Remember now that these allegations do not have to be made by the child.
Typically, if a teacher asks a child how a bruise got on his or her head and the child doesn't answer immediately or hesitates, a report gets made. The reports can say, “I did my part, let someone else figure it out.” If the report is designated as “substantiated,” whatever that means, the parents might find themselves on the latest national list – theChild Abuse Registry. Right, with less evidence than they need to even make a lawful arrest, you get sued to be labeled nation-wide as a “child abuser.” Yes, no trial necessary. If you miss the mail and you fail to show for a hearing in 10 days, you fail to prove your innocence, and you are on the list. Just so you know, this is not a criminal case, so don't even think about “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Accused of Child Abuse? Call Elmer!
So, what are we talking about here? What's wrong with that? Shouldn't we, as a society, be concerned about the health, safety, and welfare of our children? There's an old saying that goes: “It all depends upon whose oxen is getting gored!” I think that means that if the parent accused is your neighbor, the only concern you are faced with is: “Do I repeat gossip?” But if it's you or your spouse, your concern is your job, career, or even jail. By the way, have you ever thought about who might post a $100,000 bond for you? Remember, you only get one call.
In the same light, I think it was some ancient Greek fellow who spoke of doing all things, “In moderation”. That means to me that: “Maybe the kid is being abused, but shouldn't we gather all the facts, make sure first, and hear the other side of the story before we lock the accused up? Does that mean asking the child for more details? Checking out the times, dates and opportunity? Oh, no, no, no! Too risky, too dangerous! The child might be more trauma for the child, is the government's response. Let the courts sort it out, they say. Meanwhile, someone sits in jail, usually without a bond, waiting and waiting and waiting.
If you have been accused of child abuse or molestation in the state of Georgia, call Attorney Elmer Young today. His years of experience fighting for and defending his clients is unmatched and he will work tirelessly to protect your constitutional rights.