Connecticut Child Endangerment Lawyer
Connecticut lawmakers, prosecutors and police are extremely vigilant about protecting the safety and welfare of Connecticut children. As a result, the crime of Risk of Injury to a Minor / Child Endangerment is frequently charged and enforced in the Connecticut criminal justice system. The crime is divided into primarily two subdivisions: one to protect against improper sexual contact, and another to cover all other contact and dangers to children.
Below we will explain the differences and consequences of each of these crimes; however, if you are charged with or being investigated for a violation of any section of Risk of Injury under C.G.S. § 53-21, you should immediately consider contacting a top Connecticut child endangerment lawyer to learn how to protect yourself from these serious felony charges.
Child Endangerment Charges
Section 53-21(a)(1) forbids any person from causing any child under the age of 16 to be placed in a situation where (a) the child is placed in physical danger, (b) their physical or mental health is likely to be injured, or (c) their morals are likely to be compromised or impaired. Obviously this covers a lot of ground, and police usually err on the side of caution and will tend to arrest rather than issue a warning.
Such scenarios include: driving drunk with a child in the car, driving at excessive speed with a child in the car, committing any kind of crime (even a minor one like shoplifting or breach of peace) while your child is present, leaving a child in the car without supervision, sending or exposing a child to adult pornographic images or explicit sexual content, excessive, inappropriate, or gratuitous horseplay with a child, or using violent, inappropriate or cruel home discipline on a child. Whatever the scenario, if the police believe you have caused injury or risk of injury to a child’s physical health, mental health, or morals, then they will charge you with a Connecticut Risk of Injury felony under C.G.S. § 53-21(a)(1). A lawyer in Connecticut could help you prepare a defense if you have been accused of child endangerment.
Risk of Injury Involving Sexual Contact
The other most commonly charged Connecticut Child Endangerment crime is the sexual contact / intimate parts subdivision. Again, this is another broadly drafted statute that can encompass a wide array of conduct. The law forbids any form of contact with the intimate parts of a child under 16, or contact between the child and the perpetrator’s intimate parts, in a manner that is likely to impair the health of morals of the child. Clearly what impairs the health and morals of a child is subjective—that is, subject to the discretion of law enforcement. This type of conduct can include inappropriate horseplay or rough-housing with a minor child, improper touching in the bath, shower, or swimming pool, or improper contact while sleeping in the same bed as a child under 16.
Penalties for Risk of Injury Crimes
No matter which subdivision you are charged with, all Risk of Injury charges are felonies. A conviction of Connecticut Risk of Injury – Intimate Parts is a Class B Felony and carries a maximum jail sentence of 20 years, a maximum $15,000 fine, and mandatory sex offender registration. If the victim is under 13 years old and you are convicted under Section 53-21(a)(2) – Intimate Parts, then you will be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison.
In contrast, a Connecticut Risk of Injury conviction under Section 53-21(a)(1) is a Class C Felony and could result in a maximum 10 year sentence and up to a $10,000 fine. Clearly the stakes are high with a Connecticut Risk of Injury charge. That’s why it is important for you to consult with some of the best Connecticut lawyers if you are charged with child endangerment.
Connecticut Risk of Injury Investigations
As any parent knows, children sometimes do not always tell the truth. Sometimes they will exaggerate or fabricate the truth out of emotion, or for attention, humor, revenge, or other reasons that are not readily apparent to a child’s parents, teachers or loved ones. The risks when children make criminal accusations against an individual are severe—as educators, doctors and therapists are mandated reporters under Connecticut law and in most circumstances, they must report allegations of abuse or neglect to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) or the local police department.
When reports or “referrals” like this are made to DCF or the police, these authorities will likely commence an investigation and attempt to interview the individual suspected of abusing the child or putting the child in harm’s way. Remember that anything you say to these investigators can be used against you in a criminal prosecution. There is no “off the record” during an investigation like this. Speak to an experienced attorney in Connecticut to learn more about risk of injury to a minor and child endangerment laws.
Child Endangerment Arraignments & Protective Order Hearings
Sometimes you will not have the chance to be interviewed prior to a Connecticut arrest for Risk of Injury to a Minor / Child Endangerment. If the underlying allegations are serious, then you can be arrested on-site or arrested by warrant application.
If the allegations involve abuse to your own child, then you may be asked to leave your home until your arraignment at Superior Court. When you appear in court for the first time in your Connecticut Risk of Injury case, you will be called before the judge and a protective / restraining order may be issued with respect to the child who is the alleged victim. This could include restricting your right to reside where the child resides, or it could prohibit, limit or restrict the contact you may have with the child involved.
A brief hearing is held at your arraignment and you and your Connecticut child endangerment lawyer will have the opportunity to argue for the least restrictive protective / restraining order, or conditions of release. These conditions can be onerous and, if needed, the experienced Risk of Injury attorneys at Mark Sherman Law can urge the Court to order a low bond and will aggressively argue against the imposition of conditions such as GPS monitoring devices, curfew, anger management, parenting classes and other forms of mental health counseling.
The Importance of Having a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Appointed
One other option to consider early on in your child endangerment case is whether your Connecticut lawyer should request a Guardian Ad Litem (a “GAL”) to get involved in your case. Without one appointed, the child’s other guardian (sometimes a bitter ex-spouse with an improper agenda or personal vendetta against you) will be speaking to the court on the child’s behalf. To ensure that the child’s interests are being truthfully and accurately communicated to the Court, the Risk of Injury Attorneys at Mark Sherman Law have often requested that the court appoint an independent lawyer with no ties to either you or the child’s other guardian. The GAL will then meet with the child, assess their safety, and fairly represent the child’s position to the judge and prosecutors.
Leaving Child Unsupervised in a Car / Motor Vehicle
Leaving your child unsupervised in your car—even just for a few minutes or moments—while you either grab a cup of coffee, get the dry cleaning, or pick up another child from a playdate or class, can result in a Connecticut Risk of Injury Charge, or the less serious misdemeanor Leaving Child Unsupervised in a Motor Vehicle under C.G.S. § 53-21a (the charge escalates to a felony if you leave the child in a car between 8pm and 6am). For the full text of the Section 53-21a statute, click here.
In a lot of Connecticut towns, parents, nannies and babysitters don’t think much of leaving their child in the car for just a few minutes. Our cities and towns are relatively safe and they trust their children will stay in their cars and behave. Additionally, foreigners who have moved to Connecticut have sometimes been under the false impression that because this conduct is tolerated and legal in their home country, then it is likewise tolerated and legal here in Connecticut. Not quite.
Recent unsupervised child in car cases have illustrated just how dangerous this conduct can be, especially in very hot or very cold weather. As a result, police have strictly enforced this law. If police see it or are able to get a statement from a passerby who witnessed it, they will charge you with either the felony Risk of Injury charge or the lesser misdemeanor of Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a Motor Vehicle. Whichever the charge, having a felony or misdemeanor hanging over your head for these child endangerment-type cases can have a detrimental impact on your ability to work and participate in your children’s activities. Background checks are routinely run by employers, licensing entities, little leagues and youth groups. All the more reason to hire a top Connecticut Risk of Injury lawyer when facing charges for leaving a child in a motor vehicle.
Contact the Connecticut Child Endangerment Attorneys at Mark Sherman Law Today
So if you are facing Connecticut Risk of Injury charges, or are subject to a Risk of Injury police investigation, give one of the experienced Risk of Injury lawyers at Mark Sherman Law a call today. We will work with you quickly to build your defense and resolve the case as quickly as possible, with the ultimate goal of getting your charges dismissed and if possible, keeping your record clean. With a combined 20 years of criminal law experience, the Connecticut child endangerment lawyers at Mark Sherman Law have handled some of the most sensitive and serious Risk of Injury cases and have achieved positive results.