About Utah Crimes Child Abuse and Abandonment Under Code 76-5-109

Child abuse and child abandonment are extremely serious crimes to be accused of.  In many cases, these offenses are tried as felonies, which means you may have a felony record if you are found guilty.  In addition to risking the possibility of long-term incarceration, enormous criminal fines, and other consequences, your reputation may suffer tremendously if you are convicted.  You may lose your ability to work in certain occupations, and come to be viewed in a negative light by your peers and loved ones.

If you or a loved one has been accused of child abuse or child abandonment in Utah, skilled legal representation is imperative.  Salt Lake City child abuse attorney Darwin Overson has over 16 years of experience representing mothers, fathers, grandparents, teachers, and other defendants charged with abuse-related felonies and misdemeanors in counties throughout Utah, including but not limited to Salt Lake County, Wasatch County, Tooele County, Box Elder County, Morgan County, Cache County, Rich County, Utah County, and Summit County.  To set up a free legal consultation with Darwin Overson, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287.

Were You Charged with Abusing or Abandoning Your Child Under Utah Code 76-5-109?

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A person can be charged with child abuse under Utah Code § 76-5-109 for:

  • Inflicting injury upon a child.
  • Allowing another person to injure a child over whom the defendant has custody.

A child is defined as a person aged 17 or younger.  How serious the charge is depends on several factors, including:

  • The severity of the injury inflicted.
  • The manner in which the injury was inflicted.

If the injury is legally classified as “serious,” the consequences will be more severe.  Utah’s child abuse law defines a “serious” injury to mean:

  • Broken bones.
  • Burn injuries.
  • Intracranial bleeding (bleeding inside the skull) caused by blunt trauma or shaking.
  • Organ damage of any kind.
  • Physical torture.
  • Starvation or malnutrition.
  • Any injury caused by a dangerous weapon, such as a knife or firearm.
  • Any injury that causes the child to stop breathing, even if he or she is successfully resuscitated.
  • Any act that “causes serious emotional harm,” “seriously impairs the child’s health,” or “involves a substantial risk of death.”
  • Any act that “results in severe emotional harm, severe developmental delay or intellectual disability, or severe impairment of the child’s ability to function.”

The way the injury was allegedly inflicted is also significant.  An injury can be inflicted:

  • Intentionally – This means the injury was inflicted deliberately and knowingly.
  • Recklessly – This means the injury occurred because the person disregarded a significant and unjustifiable risk.
  • Negligently – This means the injury occurred due to the person’s failure to exercise due care, considering the circumstances and environment.

Child abandonment is a separate but related offense addressed by a different section of the same statute.  A person can be charged with child abandonment if, allegedly, he or she intentionally stops caring and providing for a child.  Failure to “make reasonable arrangements for the safety, care, and physical custody of the child” can also lead to child abandonment charges.

The severity of a child abandonment charge in Utah depends on factors like:

  • Whether the child sustains a serious injury.
  • Whether the defendant “receives, directly or indirectly, any benefit” from abandoning the child.

What Are the Criminal Penalties for Child Abuse in Utah?

Utah divides crimes into six different categories:

  • Misdemeanors
    1. Class C Misdemeanors
    2. Class B Misdemeanors
    3. Class A Misdemeanors
  • Felonies
    1. Third Degree Felonies
    2. Second Degree Felonies
    3. First Degree Felonies

Felonies are more serious than misdemeanors.  However, a conviction of either will give you a criminal record, which can make it extremely difficult – and in some cases, impossible – to obtain certain loans, jobs, and professional licenses or certifications that you need to advance in your career.  For example, if you are convicted of a felony, you will lose your right to purchase, possess, or use a gun as a “restricted person.”

The penalties you will receive if you are convicted depend, to a large extent, on which of the above categories the offense falls into.  However, there are many variables which have an effect on sentencing, such as your criminal record and whether the offense involved any mitigating or aggravating factors.  Mitigating factors, such as suitability for treatment, can make a sentence shorter.  Aggravating factors, such as acting with cruelty or depravity, can extend the length of a sentence.

Criminal penalties for felonies and misdemeanors in Utah are listed below by category and class.

What Are the Consequences of a Misdemeanor?

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Child abuse can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.  It is a misdemeanor when:

  • A serious injury is inflicted negligently, which is a Class A misdemeanor.  (Utah Code § 76-5-109 (2)(c))
  • An injury is inflicted:
    • Knowingly or intentionally, which is a Class A misdemeanor. (Utah Code § 76-5-109(3)(a))
    • Recklessly, which is a Class B misdemeanor.  (Utah Code § 76-5-109(3)(b))
    • Negligently, which is a Class C misdemeanor.  (Utah Code § 76-5-109(3)(c))

Misdemeanor penalties may include the following:

  • Class C Misdemeanors
    Fine – Up to $750
    Sentence – Up to 3 months in jail
  • Class B Misdemeanors
    Fine – Up to $1,000
    Sentence – Up to 6 months in jail
  • Class A Misdemeanors
    Fine – Up to $2,500
    Sentence– Up to 1 year in jail

What Are the Consequences of a Felony?

Child abuse is a felony when:

  • A serious injury is inflicted intentionally, which is a second degree felony.  (Utah Code § 76-5-109(2)(a))
  • A serious injury is inflicted recklessly, which is a third degree felony.  (Utah Code § 76-5-109(2)(b))

Unlike child abuse, which is sometimes charged as a misdemeanor, child abandonment is always a felony offense.  Child abandonment is a generally a third degree felony, unless the abandonment causes the child to suffer a serious injury, or the defendant benefits from the abandonment.  In those cases, child abandonment is a second degree felony.

Felony penalties for child abandonment in Utah may include the following:

  • Third Degree Felonies
    Fine – Up to $5,000
    Sentence – Up to 5 years in prison
  • Second Degree Felonies
    Fine – Up to $10,000
    Sentence – Up to 15 years in prison

Depending on certain factors in the case, you may have extra costs in addition to the fines listed above.  Under Utah Code § 76-5-109(5)(a), “[T]he court may order the [defendant] to pay the costs of investigating and prosecuting the offense and the costs of securing any forfeiture.”  As it is described here, forfeiture is the process by which law enforcement officers recover money that was gained as a result of abandoning the child.

Salt Lake City Child Abuse Defense Attorney Representing Parents

If you have been accused of abusing or abandoning your child, or if one of your family members was arrested for child abuse or child abandonment, experienced and aggressive legal representation is critical.  A conviction can have permanently life-altering repercussions, not only in terms of the penalties imposed by the court, but also in terms of effects on your career, your family, and your personal relationships.

You are entitled to a vigorous defense.  To arrange for a free legal consultation with a highly experienced Utah child abuse defense lawyer, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 758-2287. Darwin Overson is available to make attorney visits to jails and holding centers throughout Utah.