Exploring Maryland Laws Against Child Abuse
Child abuse is a specific type of domestic violence crime under Maryland law. In these cases, the victim is always a minor child under the age of 18 years old. Furthermore, the abuser must have a certain type of relationship with the child victim — such as a parent, guardian, or family member.
Maryland Code, Criminal Law Section 3-601 defines several key terms, including abuse, family member, and household member. Under this section, abuse refers to physical injuries sustained as a result of cruel or inhumane treatment. Abuse also includes malicious acts that indicate harm or mistreatment of a child.
Section 3-601 defines family member as someone related by adoption, blood, or marriage. Under this section, the term household member refers to any person who lives with or is in regular presence of a minor child.
Second-Degree Child Abuse
Section 3-601 outlines the parameters of second-degree child abuse offenses. Under this section, second-degree child abuse occurs if a:
- Parent commits an act of abuse against a minor child;
- Custodian or guardian commits an act of abuse against a minor child; or
- Family or household member commits an act of abuse against a minor child.
Under Section 3-601, second-degree child abuse is a felony crime. Upon conviction, the offender usually faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
First-Degree Child Abuse
Section 3-601 also details the definition of first-degree child abuse. As with the second-degree version of this offense, the perpetrator must be a parent, custodian, guardian, or family or household member. It qualifies as first-degree child abuse when such a person:
- Inflicts serious physical injury on a minor child; or
- Causes the death of a minor child.
Any person who commits first-degree child abuse is guilty of a felony, though the punishment can vary under certain circumstances. For example:
- Standard Punishment — First-degree child abuse is usually punishable by a maximum of 25 years in prison;
- Victims Under 18 — If the victim is between 13 and 18 years old, child abuse resulting in death is punishable by a maximum of 40 years in prison; or
- Victims Under 13 — If the victim is less than 13 years old, child abuse resulting in death is punishable by a maximum of a life sentence in prison.
Repeated Child Abusers
Section 3-601 establishes a separate punishment scheme for repeat offenders who commit child abuse a second or subsequent time. The following punishment scheme applies to both second- and first-degree child abuse offenses.
- Standard Punishment — Repeated child abuse is usually punishable by a maximum of 25 years in prison; or
- Victim Fatalities — If the offense results in the death of the victim, repeated child is punishable by a maximum of a life sentence in prison.
Let Us Help You Today
If you need legal help with child abuse in Maryland, it can be decidedly valuable to contact a trusted domestic violence attorney. The Bel Air domestic violence attorneys at Schlaich & Thompson, Chartered have more than 60 years of combined legal experience in family and criminal law, including child abuse and other aspects of domestic violence. If you need legal help, contact us today for an initial consultation.