The general public doesn’t typically think of child abuse crimes as domestic violence but if you’re accused of physically or emotionally abusing your child, or the child of your current or former spouse or lover, for example, then that’s exactly the criminal category it falls under.
In general, however, “active” child abuse involves the infliction of physical or mental suffering – typically through your own intentional acts – upon an individual younger than eighteen years old.
That victim falls into the category of individuals for whom domestic violence (“DV”) laws were intended to protect when he or she currently lives with you or lived with you in the prior six months. This includes kids whose parents allegedly exceeded their rights to reasonably and justifiably punish them (typically, that’s anything beyond a spanking, including any use of an object that leaves visible marks).
Alternatively, a minor DV victim could simply be a child who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as an innocent bystander assaulted because he or she was in the house when the abuser broke in to attack the mother.
Finally, even accidental deaths, such as one that indirectly resulted from excessive punishment, can result in serious criminal charges with the potential for many years in prison, including a possible life sentence (see below).
California’s child abuse crimes that do not involve sexual abuse, abandonment, neglect or kidnapping are primarily codified at California Penal Code sections 273a through 273.75. As with most child abuse crimes, the District Attorney can choose to charge each alleged violation as a misdemeanor or a felony (therefore, these crimes are commonly known as “wobblers”).
One of the most common charges involving child abuse falls under California Penal Code section 273d, which covers any situation where you allegedly intentionally punish a child (whether it’s yours or not) in a “cruel or inhuman” manner that results in a “traumatic condition”.
Again, as with most crimes of this nature, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has the sole discretion to charge this either as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on various factors (e.g., the severity of the injury/ies; your prior convictions (if any), particularly for child abuse; etc.).
Similarly, Penal Code section 273a(a)&(b) criminalizes the following acts: