In Virginia, child abuse is defined as emotionally, physically, or sexually abusing or neglecting a minor by a parent or guardian. Further defined, any mental abuse or anguish imposed on a child, cruelty, or child exploitation is also charged as criminal child abuse.
There are quite a few different acts that could lead to allegations of child abuse or neglect, including assault and battery against a child or leaving a child alone in a car. Under Virginia law, a person can be charged with child abuse if law enforcement believes that:
The suspect is a parent, guardian, or person who is responsible for the child’s care;
By means of intentional acts or failure to act, the suspect refuses to provide proper care necessary for the child’s health; and
Due to act or neglect, causes or allows serious injury to the child that includes, but is not limited to:
(a) Broken or fractured bones
(b) Severe burns or deep cuts
(c) Mutilation (injury that would deprive the child of a limb or important body part)
(e) Forced ingestion of dangerous chemicals, substances, or objects
(f) Life-threatening internal injuries
(g) Maiming (injury causing permanent damage)
Child abuse, as described in the section above, is a Class 4 felony in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A suspect who is found guilty of child abuse can expect a sentence of two to 10 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $100,000.
A lesser charge of child neglect occurs if any parent or guardian’s actions or omissions in caring for their child reflect a reckless disregard for their welfare or safety. This offense is a Class 6 felony, which draws a prison sentence of one to five years, a discretionary jail sentence of up to 12 months, and/or up to a fine of $2,500. An additional lesser offense is outlined in Virginia Code Section 18.2-371, known in shorthand as “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” and referring to a broad array of potential conduct that is collectively punished as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
If an individual, with an overt sexual intent, sexually abuses a child between the ages of 13 and 15 years old, then the perpetrator is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor and also faces up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
Virginia law also requires any medical professional, government worker, teacher, and religious official to report any abuse they may discover or reasonably suspect. If they fail in their duty to report their suspicions or give a false report, they may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. For repeat offenders of either crime, they run the risk of being charged with a Class 6 felony, depending on the seriousness of the offenses that are uncovered by law investigators.
Virginia Child Abuse Statutes