Is Child Abuse a Criminal Offense in New Jersey?

If you are accused of child abuse or neglect in New Jersey, you might not only be facing the possibility of having your child taken away, but you could also be facing potential criminal charges and jail time. Typically, allegations of child abuse and/or neglect are investigated by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). However, the same conduct may form a basis for criminal charges.

The standard of what constitutes child abuse is different within a DYFS investigation versus a criminal investigation. Under New Jersey criminal law, acts of child abuse can include habitual use of profane or obscene language in front of a child the defendant has custody and control of, performing any indecent, immoral or unlawful act in the presence of a child that would endanger the child’s morals, and using excessive physical restraint on a child when it is unnecessary to prevent the child from harming himself, others, or property.

There are varying degrees of child abuse charges in New Jersey, depending on the circumstances of the specific case. Criminal charges for child abuse fall under the “endangering the welfare of a child” statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4. According to this law, Parents, guardians, or individuals who have the care, custody or control of a child may be guilty of fourth degree child abuse if they abuse, abandon, or are cruel or neglectful to any child.

In New Jersey, a person can be charged with child endangerment for any number of reasons, ranging from child molestation to driving while intoxicated (DWI) with a minor in the vehicle. The important thing to remember is the criminal case arising from an instance of child abuse is separate from the DCPP investigation. For instance, if you are accused of driving under the influence (DUI) with your child in the car, you may be charged with DWI and endangering the welfare of a child, which will be handled in criminal court. After your arrest, police may contact the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, prompting an additional investigation by state officials.

Other criminal and DCPP related cases include using a minor to commit a crime such as shoplifting, being arrested for drug possession with your child present, or alleged sexual conduct that leads to both types of investigations.

As a parent or guardian of a child, the consequences of a criminal conviction and a DCPP investigation can be devastating. In connection with the criminal case, you may lose your driver’s license, be sent to jail, pay heavy fines, perform community service, be subject to a period of probation, and be left with a criminal record that prevents you from obtaining certain career or educational goals. As for a child abuse case with DCPP, the results can include losing custody of your child, being forced to submit to random drug testing, supervised visitation, and more.

Charged with Child Abuse in Camden County, NJ?

If you have been charged with child abuse, DWI with a minor, or another crime involving children in the Camden County, NJ area, our experienced attorneys are ready to defend you. Firm Partner, William Fay, has years’ experience in the realm of criminal defense. To discuss your specific child abuse allegations with a seasoned defense lawyer, call us today at 609-832-3202. We have several convenient office locations to serve clients in Burlington County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and surrounding communities.


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