How is Child Abuse Defined in South Carolina?

Many of the attention-grabbing headlines you see that involve children often have to do with internet sex crimes, criminal sexual conduct, or other lurid offenses. Those are serious crimes, no doubt, but so are offenses like cruelty to a child and child abuse or neglect. In addition to facing severe penalties, allegations of child abuse can result in DSS (Department of Social Services) taking your kids from your care. 

What Does the Law Say? 

SC Code § 63-7-20 defines the crime child abuse or neglect. Under this section, parents, guardians, or some other person responsible commits child abuse or neglect if they: 

  • Inflict physical or mental injury to a child, allow such harm to be inflicted, or do something that presents a substantial risk of such harm to a child. Corporal punishment may be excluded from this in some cases; 
  • Commit sexual offenses against a child, allow sexual offenses to be inflicted, or do something that presents a substantial risk of sexual offenses against a child; 
  • Fail to supply a child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, supervision, or health care. That failure must result in physical or mental injury to a child or a substantial risk of that happening; 
  • Abandon a child; 
  • Condone or encourage the commission of delinquent acts by a child; 
  • Inflict female genital mutilation or do something that presents a substantial risk of female genital mutilation; or 
  • Commit any of those six offenses that cause any children that subsequently enter their care to be at substantial risk. 

Child Abuse Penalties

The prison time you’ll be facing for a child abuse conviction depends on the exact offense you’re convicted of. For instance, cruelty to a child is a misdemeanor that carries a prison term of no more than 30 days. Felony child abuse, on the other hand, carries a possible 10-year prison sentence. The penalties you’re facing will depend on the facts of your case, including the responsibility you had over the particular child.

DSS Process

If someone has reported you to DSS for possible child abuse, the department will send a representative to your house to determine whether it is justified in taking away your child. If DSS takes away your child, you are entitled to a hearing within 72 hours of your child’s entering emergency protective custody. A judge will determine whether there was probable cause to take your child. The next step is a merits hearing, which should be scheduled within 35 days and lays out the department’s case against you. DSS might recommend anger management classes or other treatment plans you must complete in order to be reunited with your child. 

Offenses against children are taken extremely seriously in South Carolina. These crimes require the help of an attorney with experience in both criminal and family law matters. Cate & Brough, P.A. understands the complexities, nuances, and intense emotions often associated with these cases and can provide a holistic, yet strategic approach to your legal representation. If you’re dealing with serious criminal charges that intersect with family law, get in touch with us today to see how we can help.

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Cate & Brough, P.A.

At Cate & Brough, we all have personal experience with family law and family court. We know more than just what the law says about your issue – we know what you are going through.

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