connecticut criminal defense lawyerOne of the worst things a parent can face is the claim that they have committed child abuse or otherwise caused their child to suffer harm. In these situations, a parent may not only face criminal charges, but an investigation by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) may result in children being removed from a parent’s home and other issues that will affect a person’s relationship with their child and other family members. Unfortunately, false claims of child abuse or neglect are all too common, and parents who are accused of committing crimes against children will need to understand the best ways to approach these situations.

Increased Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect

Over the past decade in Connecticut, reports of suspected child abuse by teachers or other staff members at schools have increased by 150 percent. This increase is likely due to a change in the law that requires “mandated reporters” to notify the Commissioner of Children and Families or a law enforcement agency if they reasonably suspect that a child has been abused or neglected or is at risk of physical injury or other forms of harm. Mandated reporters include teachers and school employees, as well as coaches, social workers, or counselors.

Mandated reporters who fail to file a report if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been the victim of abuse or neglect may face criminal charges. Failure to report child abuse or neglect is a class A misdemeanor. A person may be charged with a class E felony if they intentionally fail to report abuse or neglect, if they fail to make a report due to gross negligence, if they have actual knowledge of abuse or neglect and fail to make a report, or if they commit multiple violations of their reporting requirements. Because of these consequences, school officials have become more likely to report any suspicions that a child may be at risk of harm, and this has led to an increased number of false reports of child abuse or neglect. In 2019, 87 percent of reports made to DCF of suspected child abuse or neglect were determined to be unsubstantiated.

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medical examiner, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyIn certain cases, the evidence that a crime has been committed is almost overwhelming. For example, a store’s broken window combined with missing merchandise are fairly strong indications that a burglary has taken place. Violent crimes often leave similar evidence in the form cuts, bruises, wounds, and other injuries that leave little doubt as to the nature of the behavior that caused them. Sometimes, however, the physical evidence available does not offer a very clear picture of what occurred, or, even that something illegal ever happened. Medical examiners tend to be at the center of such controversy, as was the case recently in Massachusetts when a physician in the employ of the state changed his opinion regarding the death of a 6-month-old baby girl.

The Tragic Death of an Infant

More than two years ago, in March of 2014, a 6-month-old baby girl died at Boston Children’s Hospital after lapsing into unconsciousness while under the care of a sitter. The medical examiner who conducted the girl’s autopsy studied the case for a full year before releasing a report that baby had died as a result of shaken-baby syndrome. The examiner pointed to spinal fractures, retinal injuries, and swelling in the child’s brain. As a result, the sitter was charged with child’s murder.

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