Risk of Injury to a Minor
Top Stamford criminal defense lawyers will concur that the charge of risk of injury to a minor in violation C.G.A. Section 53-21 is a catch all statute that covers an incredibly wide range of criminal behavior related to the safety and wellbeing of children. The Legislature could not envision every possible scenario in which the safety or morals of children could be placed at danger so the statute was intentionally drafted in a very vague manner. Unfortunately, this leaves a lot of room for interpretation and prosecutorial discretion as to what behavior constitutes a crime and what behavior is normal parenting. For this reason it is a very commonly charged crime in Connecticut. Because the statute itself is used by law enforcement to cover such a wide range of activities often individuals charged with these offenses for what seem like relatively minor transgressions may not realize the serious mature of the allegation itself. The lowest level risk of injury to a minor allegation is a class C felony for which you can face up to 10 years in prison, hefty fines and years of probation. Make no mistake the State of Connecticut takes the safety and welfare of children very seriously and if you have been charged with risk of injury to a minor you should immediately contact a Stamford risk of injury lawyer to discover the best way to defend yourself against these very serious allegations.
Most Stanford criminal defense lawyers would agree that the vast majority of risk of injury cases processed in Connecticut Courts involve situations where the child was not actually harmed or injured in any way but rather placed in a situation which either had the potential of causing harm to the child or possibly impairing the morals of the child. The statue essentially is divided in two main subdivisions. The first subdivision deals with general dangers and threats of all kinds to minors and children and the second subdivision deals with inappropriate sexual contact with a minor under the age of 16.A. Non Sexual Risk of Injury Charges Under C.G.A. Section 53-21(a)(1)
Risk of injury to a minor under C.G.S. 53(a)(1) references either placing a minor under the age of 16 in a situation where the “life or limb” of the child is endangered; the “health” of the child is likely to be injured or you do “any act” likely to impair the “health or morals of a child.” This statute is obviously a very broadly crafted statute intended to cover a wide range of possible scenarios and behaviors that put children at risk of harm. Virtually any act or behavior that places a child in any danger can result in a charge of risk of injury to a minor. Police officers in the field liberally make arrests whenever there is any doubt that a child’s welfare or safety was placed in danger as the Police are now mandated reporters and must file reports to DCF anytime they encounter a situation which places the welfare of a child in danger or risk sanctions. With so much emphasis on child protection it seems that the pressure is put on the Police to make arrests in some situations were logic would seem to suggest that a parent should not be stuck facing a serious felony allegation. While there are certainly some examples of arrests made where parents have genuinely placed their children at a serious risk of harm (for one example – drunk driving with children in the car) there are so many situations where good parents are charged with this serious felony for engaging in conduct that in reality did not pose any danger of threat to their children.
While the intention of the Legislature is well intended to protect children when combined with the mandatory DCF child abuse reporting laws it creates a difficult situation for Police officers who are trying to enforce the law. Police officers may be exposing themselves to liability if they fail to take action and make an arrest and file a report with DCF. For this reason Police will more likely than not err on the side of making an arrest whenever they are faced with a situation which is a “close call.” Some examples of situations in which we have seen Police make arrests for risk of injury to a minor are:
Domestic violence arguments between Mom and Dad when the children are at home (This can include situations where Mom and Dad are just yelling at each other even if the children are in another area of the house – or it can include situations where Mon and Dad are actually fighting and one of the children calls 911 for help).
Being charged with a serious motor vehicle offense such as DUI/DWI / reckless driving or evading responsibility with children in the car.
Excessive use of alcohol or drugs while in the presence or custody of children.
Purchasing or possession of drugs while in the presence of your children.
Texting lewd or inappropriate sexual or other comments to a minor.
Approaching a minor on the street and offering to give them a ride.
Shoplifting with your children present.
Committing any type of crime with a child present with you.
Excessive or cruel corporal punishment.
Leaving young children home alone unattended.
The failure to render appropriate medical care for a sick child.
Failure to maintain a reasonably clean and safe home environment for your children.
Engaging in “immoral” conduct of behavior in the presence of a child – (e.g. nude bathing at a public beach; exposing a child to adult pornographic materials).
Leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle* - Note – there is also a separate misdemeanor charge for this particular offense.
As we can see this statute does cover a really wide range of kinds of behaviors and actions. One that is particularly troubling is the trend to issue these felony arrests whenever there is a domestic violence arrest in which children were present in the home. Of course if there is a major assault going on in the home and children are present there is some serious risk of injury to the children. However, the Police seem to be arresting people very often for any domestic violence arrest – even breach of the peace or disorderly conduct – when there is just a shouting match between the parents and the children may not have even witnessed the incident or have been aware of it. It is regrettable when this happens as it turns a minor misdemeanor domestic violence case into a felony criminal case and a DCF investigation of your home. I find that many parents who are charged with this crime are equally upset about being labeled as a “bad parent” by the Police and DCF. No matter what the circumstances for your risk of injury to a minor arrest you should take this allegation very seriously. This charge is a class C felony and the consequences for a conviction are very serious. Too often, Parents who had nothing but the best intentions for their children are charged with risk of injury to a minor and face serious penalties. If you have been arrested for risk of injury to a minor you immediately contact a Stamford criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Allan F. Friedman who can plan the best possible defense strategy and work to have the charges against you dismissed or reduced.B. Sexual Contact / Intimate Parts - Risk of Injury Charges Under C.G.A. Section 53-21(a)(2)
Top Stamford risk of injury layers will agree that this section of the risk of injury statute covers situations in which “in a sexual and indecent manner likely to impair the morals of a child” there is contact with the “intimate parts” of a child under the age of 16; or in which the actor subjects a child under the age of 16 to have contact with the actor’s intimate parts. This is a much more serious crime than the other subsection of risk of injury. The stakes are very high for this offense. A conviction for this crime exposes you to up to 20 years in jail and the requirement to register as a sex offender along with significant periods on intrusive probation supervision. Just being charged with this offense will result in your name being plastered all over the local newspapers and internet and result in a lot of damage to your reputation and stress and uncertainly. If the victim was under the age of 13 then there is also a 5 year mandatory minimum jail sentence which goes along with this offense. With such stiff penalties at risk there is no doubt that if you are facing any investigation, allegation or arrest for risk of injury you should contact a Stamford risk of injury attorney today.
There is of course some wiggle room or grey area to this statute in which law enforcement may charge what seems like innocent behavior as sexual contact. In my experience these situations are few are far between but they have arisen during for example rough horseplay or in situations where there are allegations of an adult sharing a shower or bath with a child. In most cases when this crime is charged it occurs when a minor child has alleged that illegal sexual contact has occurred. These allegations are very disturbing because often they arise years after the incident and there is often no proof of the allegation other than the word of the accuser.
This is a crime where sometimes otherwise good people have made a lapse of judgment and committed a terrible mistake. In those situations they need an experienced Stamford criminal defense attorney to advocate on their behalf and work to mitigate the potential harsh penalties which a conviction for risk of injury to a minor carries. It is also true that many people are falsely accused of sex crimes who are totally innocent. It is a horrible situation to be arrested for a serious felony of this kind and have your reputation destroyed when you are completely innocent of the charges. Sadly, this happens every day throughout the United States and there are prosecutions for people who have made false claims of sexual contact or rape with great regularity.
In many situations children are claimed to have been victims of sexual contact. When these allegations are made, often years after the incident has taken place, the children are brought to child abuse interrogation centers where they are questioned about the allegations by social workers under very controlled conditions. Often they are being asked to recall events that have taken place years before and may feel forced to come up with some kind of answer to appease the investigators. It has been scientifically established that young children are easily influenced by any number of outside influences and actors who often may have their own hidden agendas. In reality many of these allegations are totally false. Also, it is commonly known that young children may lie or make up stories for a variety of reasons that are hard to comprehend. Often children will exaggerate things that took place or makeup stories about events that never took place. Often these children may be seeking attention or love and they find that by making these kind of false allegations they suddenly get a lot of attention and emotional support that they were previously lacking. Sadly the fact is that a mere allegation by a young minor (if substantiated in one of these interrogation centers) is enough to start the process and will result in your arrest and having to face the serious criminal allegations of sexual risk of injury to a minor and having to face the long difficult road towards defending your reputation and freedom. It will take a lot of criminal law experience, tenacity and zealous pursuit of the truth to search deeper into all the facts and circumstances of your case to expose any weakness in the State’s case and exploit any inconsistencies in the child’s statements and allegations which can use used to leverage a successful outcome. If you have been charged with risk of injury to a minor the most important things to keep in mind are #1- Don’t make any statements to Police or try and talk your way out of the allegations without first consulting with a Stamford risk of injury defense attorney. #2 - Don’t contact the victim or the victim’s family to discuss the allegations or the case. Your first course of action should be to contact a Stamford criminal defense attorney as the charges are very serious and you will need an experienced and tenacious advocate fighting to defend your liberty and protect your rights.Mandated DCF Investigation
As a result of any risk of injury to a minor arrest you will find that you have been reported to DCF for a DCF investigation. Under the law the Police, school teachers and doctors (and others) are all considered mandated reporters under Connecticut law. Upon making an arrest for risk of injury the Police will contact DFC (Department of Children and Families) to make a referral. DCF will then automatically initiate an investigation into your family and household. In most situations if the case is a minor allegation and if everything is in order at your home these DCF investigations usually will be concluded very quickly. However, sometimes under certain circumstances DCF investigations can turn very intrusive if the allegations in the crime charged are very serious, if there are safety issues in your home of if a personality conflict arises with the DCF investigator. In the event that DCF intensifies its investigation it often can take weeks of invasive home visits and involvement with your child’s school and medical care providers before they complete the investigation. Keep in mind while a DCF investigation is pending that you should not make any statements to DCF regarding the criminal case itself as anything that you say can and will be used against you. If DCF tries to make you discuss the allegations which are pending in the criminal Court it would be a good idea to contact a Stamford criminal defense attorney to intercede on your behalf.
In most cases the Court will want to know that DCF has finished its investigation before taking any action to resolve your case. In many minor cases the DCF investigation is wrapped up with a brief welfare visit to the home and cursory check of the living conditions. However, in some cases DCF can get really involved in your life and their investigation can go as far as trying to take custody of your children away from you. If you are having difficulties with an overly intrusive DCF investigation that seems to be taking too long to resolve or if you have questions about the DCF process you should contact a Stamford criminal defense attorney right away. With DCF investigating you and second guessing your parenting abilities it can really be a nightmare. We are here to help.Risk of Injury Criminal Orders of Protection and Conditions of Release
When you appear at your first court date on a felony charge of risk of injury to a minor this is called an arraignment. Arraignments are very informal in Connecticut criminal practice unlike for example our sister State New York where the Court may actually read the allegations against you and ask you to enter a formal plea to the charges. In risk of injury cases however, the Court has the power to enter criminal orders of protection in favor of the victim. If you do not reside with the victim and the victim is not your child this ordinarily would not present a problem for you. However, if the victim is your child the entry of such an order would possibly bar you from entering your home while the case is pending, or if your child does not live with you, preventing you from having visitation with your child. For these reasons if the allegations of risk of injury involve a child or person living in your home it would be a very good idea to retain a Stamford criminal defense attorney to accompany you to the arraignment to argue for the least restrictive orders of protection possible. In addition, in risk of injury cases the Courts have been known to impose significant pre-trial conditions of release while your case is pending. For those who have demanding careers the fulfillment of these conditions of release can often impose a significant hardship as many of the programs to which the Court will refer Defendants meet only during business hours. If you are facing a felony risk of injury arrest you certainly do not want to walk into your arraignment without an experienced Stamford risk of injury lawyer to advocate on your behalf and defend against any excessively burdensome conditions of release.Defending Risk of Injury to a Minor Charges
Risk of injury charges and fact patterns are so diverse and range from relatively minor offenses such as leaving your child unattended in a car while you run into Starbucks to grab a cup of coffee all the way to extremely serious and disturbing allegations of the sexual molestation of young infants by sexual predators. Because the range of alleged criminal conduct is so varied it is difficult to discuss all of the defense strategies that can be employed to defend risk of injury allegations in one short web page. Some of the main factors that I look at when analyzing the seriousness of a particular risk of injury allegation are:
Was the victim your child or someone else’s child? (Generally when the victim is your child the case is going to be easier to resolve).
Did the alleged conduct result in an actual injury of was it a risk of a possible injury? (For example if you left the children alone in a car was it only for a few minutes or was it for an hour and they suffered heat exhaustion?).
Did the alleged offense involve sexual talk, texting or intimate contact?
For those who are facing the more minor allegations of C.G.S. Section 53-21(a) (1) involving behavior that did not lead to an injury – such as domestic violence arguments with children present or shoplifting with a child present – those cases can usually be resolved either through negotiation with the State of through the use of a diversionary program. In many scenarios in which the Police have up charged you with the additional allegation of risk of injury on top of another charge that triggered the initial police contact, and there was no actual harm to your child, usually the State’s Attorney is will be more focused on resolving the underlying criminal charge than the risk of injury allegation. In some cases the State’s Attorney can be persuaded to drop the risk of injury allegations if you are able to reach a resolution of the other charges either through a diversionary program or by a plea negotiation.
In other cases if you do not have a criminal record it may be necessary to apply for the accelerated rehabilitation program which is a diversionary program which would lead to a dismissal of the charges. This can be a good option to resolve these kind of charges without admitting guilt and getting a complete dismissal of all the charges which is critical to maintain your future employment prospects.
Due to the vast range of allegations covered by the risk of injury statute, any conversation regarding the defense of one of these very serious felony allegations needs to start with a detailed discussion of all of the facts of your individual case. Armed with all the details of your specific case, we can develop an individualized plan to defend your specific case. Most importantly we will be in a position to give you some concrete answers about how the process works and what to expect. Of course the first consultation is always free. So if you are facing a risk of injury charge contact an experienced Stamford criminal defense attorney today.Why Hire the Law Offices of Allan F. Friedman?
- Risk of injury investigations do not always take place during business hours so we are available 24/7
- 25 years defending risk of injury to a minor charges
- We will do everything possible under the law to protect your liberty and we focus on results that work
- Free initial consultation
- Reasonable rates and payment plans
- Our clients come first
If you have been charged with a risk of injury to a minor offense in Fairfield County, Attorney Allan F. Friedman can answer your questions and develop a strong strategy to defend you. Your first consultation is always free. He provides each of his clients with personal attention and clear communication, and his rates are reasonable. Payment plans are available. Stamford risk of injury attorney Allan F. Friedman also represents people in Bridgeport, Weston, Westport, Fairfield, Wilton, Cos Cob, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, and Greenwich, among other Connecticut cities. Call us at (203) 357-5555 or contact us via our online form to schedule an appointment. Attorney Friedman also is available to assist you if you need a drug crime lawyer or representation in fighting charges related to theft, drunk driving, assault, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, and many other crimes.