The Legal Definition of Child Abuse in Oklahoma
Child abuse is an incendiary topic. When we hear about it, our first instinct is to find the culprit and lock them away to prevent it from happening again. Sometimes, this leads to unfounded allegations that are made in haste and without evidentiary support. We must be careful to make sure that the innocent don’t get caught up in false allegations. Here is what you need to know about the crime and how it is handled in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, child abuse is legally defined as intentional or malicious harm to a child, either threatened or actual. It is also failing to protect a child from real or threatened harm to their health, safety, or welfare. It can also be intentionally or maliciously injuring, torturing, or maiming a child (Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 843.5).
Understanding Child Abuse in Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s child abuse statute is meant to cover a number of situations that endanger children. Under this law, the abuse to the child must be done maliciously or intentionally and with malice. Legally, the terms “malice” and “maliciously” do not require “evil” intent. The law defines these terms as merely a wish to vex, annoy, or injure another person (Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 21-95). An intention to injure is enough under the statute. Accidental injuries do not constitute child abuse.
The crime can be physical, sexual, emotional, or mental. Neglect and abandonment are also child abuse.
Physical abuse always includes injury or the threat of injury to a child. These injuries most often leave marks that are reported by teachers, doctors, and other mandated reporters. Oklahoma does allow the spanking of a child, and determining where appropriate punishment ends and abuse begins is often subjective and up for debate.
All sexual activity with a child, including the propositioning of a child to engage in sexual contact, is prohibited under Oklahoma law. In the absence of physical injury associated with sexual abuse, these cases are often a matter of pitting the word of the child against that of the accused defendant.
The law also prohibits emotional injury to a child sustained through continued rejection, criticism, isolation, or exploitation. These cases are also often difficult to prove in the absence of eyewitness testimony from a third party.
Neglect includes the failure to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical care, supervision, or other necessities of life.
While child abuse is a terrible thing and must be prevented, unfounded allegations can tear a family apart. Unfortunately, many divorcing spouses make such allegations to achieve leverage during the proceedings. These allegations complicate a divorce and endanger all the parties.
The crime is a felony in Oklahoma. Punishments vary quite a bit depending on the circumstances. You could get anywhere from one year in the county jail to life imprisonment. Instead of or in addition to jail time, you may be subject to a fine between $500 and $5,000 (Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 843.5).
If the victim of the sexual abuse is younger than 12, the penalty ranges from a minimum of 25 years of incarceration by the Department of Corrections to life in prison, a fine between $500 and $5,000, or both.
Oklahoma treats those who enable or permit the abuse of a child as seriously as it treats the abuser, even if the caretaker never actually abused the child (Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 843.1, 5) Any parent or caretaker who does so can face years in prison.
If you or a loved one are facing charges, you will need the help of an experienced Tulsa child abuse attorney to build a strong defense and help protect your freedom.
Free Consultation with a Tulsa Child Abuse Defense Attorney
If you would like a free consultation with a Tulsa child abuse defense attorney, call Wirth Law Office – Tulsa at 918-879-1681. You may also submit the question form at the top right of this page.