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 Connecticut General Statutes § 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 in danger, so the statute was drafted in a very vague manner. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation and prosecutorial discretion as to what behavior constitutes a crime. Often risk of injury arrests arise in the context of domestic violence arrests because children were at home during an argument between their parents.
Risk of injury to a minor 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 accused of risk of injury for what seems like relatively minor transgressions may not realize the serious nature of the allegation itself. The lowest level risk of injury to a minor charge is a class C felony for which you can face up to 10 years in prison, hefty fines, and years of probation. The State of Connecticut takes the safety and welfare of children very seriously. If you have been charged with risk of injury to a minor, you should immediately contact a risk of injury to a minor attorney to discover the best way to defend yourself against these severe allegations.
Most Stamford 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 instead 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 is divided into 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. § 53-21(a)(1)
This statue covers almost every possible scenario that could place a child or minor under the age of 16 in a dangerous or harmful situation. Connecticut General Statutes § 53(a)(1) makes it illegal to willfully or unlawfully place 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 the morals of the child are likely to be impaired. This section of the statute also makes it illegal to commit any act "likely to impair the "health or morals of a child."
This statute is 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 action or conduct that places a child in any danger can result in a risk of injury to a minor arrest. Police officers in the field liberally make arrests whenever there is any doubt that a child's welfare or safety was placed in danger. The police are now mandated reporters and must file reports to DCF anytime they encounter a situation that placed the health 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 where logic would seem to suggest that a parent should not be stuck facing a severe 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 or threat to their children.
Some examples of cases 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.
- The 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 covers a vast range of behaviors and actions. 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 severe penalties. If you have been arrested for risk of injury to a minor, you should immediately contact a Stamford criminal 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. § 53-21(a)(2)
The best Stamford risk of injury lawyers would agree that this section of the risk of injury statute covers situations in which:
The accused - "in a sexual and indecent manner likely to impair the morals of a child" had contact with the "intimate parts" of a child under the age of 16; or in which the accused subjects a child under the age of 16 to have contact with the another'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. 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, if you are facing any investigation, allegation, or arrest for risk of injury, you should contact a Stamford risk of injury attorney today.
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 alarming because often they arise years after the incident and there is usually 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 penalties that a conviction carries.
It is also true that many people are falsely accused of sex crimes. It is a horrible situation to be arrested for a serious felony of this kind and have your reputation destroyed when you are entirely 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.
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 accusations 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 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 make up stories about events that never took place. Often these children may be seeking attention or love, and they find that by making these kinds of false allegations, they suddenly get a lot of attention and emotional support that they were previously lacking.
The mere allegation by a young minor (if substantiated in one of these interrogation centers) is enough to 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. Any discrepancies contained in the allegations 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 criminal attorney. #2 - Don't contact the victim or the victim's family to discuss the victim's claims or the case. Your first course of action should be to contact a Stamford criminal lawyer 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
Any risk of injury to a minor arrest will result in a mandatory DCF investigation. Under the law, the police, school teachers and doctors (and others) are all considered mandated reporters under Connecticut law. Upon arresting you 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, or if there are safety issues in your home. If 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 regarding the criminal case itself as anything that you say can 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 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 be a nightmare. We are here to help.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, to severe 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 article. 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, or 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 a sexual talk, texting, or intimate contact?
For those who are facing the less severe allegations of C.G.S. § 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 or through the use of a diversionary program. In some cases, the state's attorney can be persuaded to drop the risk of injury allegations if you can resolve 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 that would lead to a dismissal of the charges. This can be an excellent option to resolve these kinds of charges without admitting guilt and getting a complete dismissal of all the charges, which is critical to maintaining 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 case. Armed with all the details of your specific situation, we can develop an individualized plan to defend your particular 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 to a minor 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
- Over 30 years defending risk of injury to a child 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, or throughout the state of Connecticut, Attorney Allan F. Friedman can answer your questions and develop a robust 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. Call us at (203) 357-5555 or contact us via our online form to schedule an appointment.