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Child Abuse

Garcia Law Group > Child Abuse

Los Angeles Child Abuse Defense Attorney


Although parents may use physical force in disciplining their children, there are circumstances when using force on a child can result in an arrest.


Child abuse under California Penal Code Section 273d PC occurs when inflicting physical punishment on a child.  This criminal offense can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. If charged as a felony, child abuse is punishable by 2, 4, or 6 years in prison and a fine. If charged as a misdemeanor, child abuse is punishable by one-year in county jail and a fine.


What type of child discipline is permissible and what is illegal in California?

In California, a parent is allowed to use physical force (spank) in punishing or disciplining his or her child so long as the corporal punishment is not excessive. Typically, if the injury is visible, it is likely that it may be deemed child abuse



In California, child abuse under Penal Code Section 273d PC, occurs when the defendant: (1) willfully or intentionally inflicted “cruel or inhuman” physical punishment on a child, or (2) inflicts an injury resulting in a traumatic condition. A traumatic condition is a bodily injury or wound caused by the direct application of physical force.


In many cases, there are factors to consider in determining whether the measures taken by the parent were permissible or whether they crossed the line into child abuse. These factors include: whether the child suffered any injury, whether an object was physically used on the child and whether there is a pattern or history of child abuse, witnesses, and child’s credibility or motives.


Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse

In California, a mandatory reporter is a professional that is required to report suspected instances of child abuse. Mandatory reporters include: teachers and school personnel, doctors, nurses, EMT’s, police and firefighters, and social workers. Mandatory reporters that fail to report child abuse could also be charged with a crime.


What happens after there is a report of child abuse?

Typically, after a report of suspected child abuse, the police will conduct an investigation and will interview the parents, children, and others in the home.  The case will also be referred to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) and they will perform their own investigation and may recommend that the children be removed from the home.


The investigation will also be referred to the District Attorney who will review the case for criminal filing. Depending on how egregious the alleged act was, the case may be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony.


What are Defenses to Child Abuse in Los Angeles?

There are legal defenses and strategies if a person is accused of child abuse in California. These defenses include: false allegations, the child’s injuries were caused by something other than abuse, the accused was acting within his or her legal right to discipline the child, the injury was the result of an accident.



Importantly, a child abuse conviction can have collateral consequences and prevent individuals from obtaining employment in areas such as nursing, teaching or child care.


Are facing charges of child abuse? Call Garcia Law Group to fight for you!


By Joel Garcia, Esq.


Related offenses

Dissuading a Witness PC 136.1

Domestic Violence PC 273.5

Domestic Violence PC 243(e)(1)

Extortion PC 518

Stalking PC 646.9

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