Texas Child Neglect and Abandonment Laws
When we decide to have children, we pledge to provide and care for them until they can take care of themselves. However, not all parents uphold these duties, neglecting and even abandoning their children. These types of abuse can have a profound impact on children and as a result, Texas state law takes these crimes very seriously.
What Is Child Neglect in Texas?
Texas state law states that parents and guardians are responsible for providing certain necessities to their children, including clothing, food, shelter, supervision, and medical care. If the parent or guardian cannot provide these items to his or her child, he or she should arrange for someone else to provide these necessities in his or her place. Neglect occurs when the parent or guardian fails to meet these responsibilities.
However, for the state of Texas to consider neglect a form of abuse, the crime must involve a substantial risk to the child or an observable and material impairment. If the parent or guardian knowingly endangers the child, it is also a form of neglect and child abuse. The state of Texas recognizes the following factors as a sign of child neglect.
- Frequent absence from school
- Dirty and torn clothes
- Malnourished and a lack of personal hygiene
- Long periods where the child is alone
- A frequent need for medical or dental care
Not all instances of neglect are a form of abuse. Parents and guardians can make simple mistakes that courts can misconstrue as abuse, such as leaving a child at home for a few hours when a babysitter was unavailable. If an honest mistake occurred and the parent did not intend to harm the child, the courts are not likely to consider the incident an act of criminal child neglect.
If a parent is guilty of child neglect, he or she may face the following penalties depending on the severity of the crime.
- For a first-degree felony, the parent can face between 5 to 99 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
- For a second-degree felony, the parent can face between 2 to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- For a third-degree felony, the parent can face 2 to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- For a state jail felony, the parent can face six months to 2 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Texas’s Child Abandonment Laws
Abandonment occurs when a parent or guardian leaves a child under the age of 15 in a place without reasonable, necessary care. In addition, abandonment can also occur when a parent leaves a child alone in a situation where a reasonable, similar adult would not do so. For example, leaving a one-year-old baby alone at home or a six-year-old alone at the store are acts of abandonment.
Texas prosecutes abandonment charges based on the seriousness of the situation. Depending on the circumstances of the case, a parent or guardian convicted of abandonment can face one of the following penalties.
- Simple abandonment when a parent intends to return for the child can result in a six month to two-year jail sentence and a fine.
- Abandonment without an intent to return can result in a two-year to 10-year jail sentence and a fine.
- Abandonment that results in imminent danger to the child can result in two to 20 years in prison and a fine.
Children require significant care, and it is the responsibility of the parents to provide for their children. As a result, Texas takes child neglect and abandonment very seriously – and if you are facing these charges, you could receive significant penalties and the state may even take your children away. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to disprove and reduce these charges. Contact a Houston defense attorney to discuss your legal options.