Cruelty to Children in DC
Elements of the Offense
In order to secure a conviction for Cruelty to Children in the First Degree, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) the defendant tortured, beat, or willfully maltreated a child under the age of 18 years old; (2) the defendant did so intentionally or recklessly; (3) the child sustained injury as a result of the defendant’s conduct; and (4) the conduct was not justified as a reasonable use of parental discipline.
“Intentionally” is defined as having acted voluntarily and on purpose, not by mistake or accident. “Recklessly” means that the defendant was aware of and disregarded the grave risk of bodily harm posed by his/her conduct.
Cruelty to Children in the Second Degree is defined as: (1) maltreating or engaging in conduct that created a grave risk of bodily harm to a child under the age of 18 years old; and (2) doing so intentionally or recklessly. As with Cruelty to Children in the First Degree, the government must also prove that the defendant’s conduct was not justified by the use of reasonable parental discipline.
The parent of a minor child is justified in using a reasonable amount of force upon the child for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the child’s welfare, including the prevention or punishment of his/her misconduct. Thus, the parent may punish the child for wrongdoing and not be guilty of second degree cruelty to children (1) if the punishment is inflicted out of a genuine effort to correct the child, and (2) if the punishment thus inflicted is not excessive in view of all the circumstances, including the child’s age, health, mental and emotional development, alleged misconduct on this and earlier occasions, the kind of punishment used, and the nature and location of the injuries inflicted. The burden is on the government to prove that the defendant’s conduct was not justified. D.C. Crimes Code § 22-1101.
The penalty for a conviction for Cruelty to Children in the First Degree is a fine of not more than $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 15 years. Cruelty to Children in the Second Degree carries a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years. D.C. Crimes Code § 22-1101.