Abused GirlThe penalties for crimes against children often depend on state law, but all states are very serious about protecting minors from harm. Nationwide, it's a crime not to report suspected abuse of a child to the authorities, and penalties for crimes against children are typically harsh.

Neglect Is a Crime

The legal definition of child neglect is that you've failed to provide for or protect a child in your custody or care. It covers a range of offenses. If you leave young children alone at home, unsupervised, law enforcement might consider this child neglect. If you can't afford three square meals a day and your child must frequently skip meals, this is neglect. Another adult who witnesses the neglect but allows it to continue - such as a stepparent - can also be charged with this crime.

Abuse Is Worse Than Neglect

Child abuse is worse than neglect because it means intentionally causing injury or pain to a child. Abuse involves either mental or physical harm. Some states classify causing physical harm to a child as "aggravated" child abuse, and this is usually a felony charge.

Kidnapping and Abduction

Legally, kidnapping a child is a crime against the child's parents, not the child. "Kidnapping" usually involves moving the child across state lines and demanding a ransom from the parents for the child's return. This is known as "aggravated kidnapping" if the child is hurt, and can result in life in prison. When a non-custodial parent takes a child from the custodial parent, this is not kidnapping. This is "child stealing" or "child abduction" in most states. Depending on the laws in your state, this may be either a misdemeanor or a felony.

Sexual Exploitation Is a Felony

Most states consider sexual exploitation of a child to be among the worst offenses. It is almost always a felony. The charge covers a wide range of acts, from publishing or posting sexual images of a child on the Internet to forcing a child to perform sexually or to witness a sexual act. If the child is younger than a teenager, the penalties increase significantly. In addition to long prison terms, a conviction for sexual exploitation of a child results in having to register as a sex offender with the government. Law enforcement can keep track of where you're living and notify parents of your past if you move to a new neighborhood.

A Criminal Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding crimes against children is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a criminal lawyer.

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