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The Two Types of Child & Vulnerable Adult Abuse According to Arizona Law


Under Arizona law, there are two different categories of child abuse or vulnerable adult abuse that can be charged as crimes. A vulnerable adult is defined as any person that is over the age of 18 and is unable to protect themselves from abuse, exploitation, or neglect due to a mental or physical impairment. “Category 1” as it pertains to this statute happens when the child or vulnerable adult lives in a situation where their health and life is endangered. “Category 2” cases occur when the situation is not likely to endanger health and life, but the individual still ends up suffering (or could have suffered) physical injury or abuse. In either instance, an effective criminal defense attorney is crucial.

To begin, we will start by defining abuse as it pertains to this statute, and look at some of the criteria that the Arizona Department of Child Safety deems abusive. The AZDCS writes the following of some types of abuse: physical abuse includes non-accidental physical injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burn, and cuts; sexual abuse occurs when sex acts are performed with children. Using children in pornography, prostitution or other types of sexual activity is also sexual abuse; Emotional abuse of a child is evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or improper aggressive behavior as diagnosed by a medical doctor or psychologist, and caused by the acts of omissions of the parent or caretaker. Other forms of abuse include abandonment, neglect and exploitation which are defined in the following ways by AZDCS: abandonment means the failure of the parent to provide reasonable support and to maintain regular contact with the child; exploitation means use of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian for material gain; and neglect occurs when children are not given necessary care for illness or injury. Neglect also includes leaving young children unsupervised, locked in or out of a home, and having them live in a home that is so poorly maintained that it becomes a health hazard.

“Category 1” child abuse and vulnerable adult abuse happens when a situation is likely to produce death or physical injury. Different charges can be brought in this category depending on the way that abuse occurred. Should it be done with intent, it will be a class 2 felony, if it is considered to have occurred “recklessly” it will be a class 3 felony, and if it was deemed to have happened through “criminal negligence” then it will be a class 4 felony. Category 1 instances of child abuse that have a victim under the age of 15 are charged under the “Dangerous Crimes Against Children” statute, which make the charges even more severe. For example, if the category 1 abuse has a victim under the age of 15 and was done intentionally, the defendant will face a first time offense minimum sentence of 10 years, with a maximum sentence of 24 years in prison. Anyone with 2 prior dangerous crimes against children that committed the aforementioned crime will receive a life sentence.

When category 1 child abuse or vulnerable adult abuse happens to an elderly person or a child that is over the age of 15 and is done knowingly or intentionally, it is also punished as a class 2 felony, but lacks the Dangerous Crimes Against Children statute. On a first time offense, the defendant faces a penalty of probation and between 0 days and one year in jail, or a prison time that ranges between 3 and 12.5 years. With a prior conviction the prison time jumps to between 4.5 and 23.25 years imprisonment, and with 2 prior convictions they will be looking at between 10.5 to 35 years incarceration. When the abuse case is not done intentionally, but instead recklessly, it becomes a class 3 felony which has slightly less severe consequences than a class 2 felony. Cases that are deemed to have occurred due to neither intentional abuse or reckless abuse, but instead “criminal negligence” have the following penalties: first time offenders see either 0 days to 1 year in jail with probation, or 3.75 years time as a maximum. With a prior conviction they will face between 2.25 years and 7.5 years imprisonment, and a second prior conviction changes the prison time to between 6 and 15 years.

“Category 2” child abuse or vulnerable adult abuse that was not likely to cause death or serious injury is charged differently from a category 1 case. When a category 2 case is considered to have happened by the intentional action of the defendant it is charged as a class 4 felony. The convict will face between 0 days and 1 year in jail with probation or a prison sentence that lasts between 1 year and 3.75 years. You will notice that category 2 abuse cases have punishment severity based on the same standards of recklessness, intent, and negligence that category 1 cases have, but are charged with different felonies. This is because category 2 is less severe because these cases are deemed by the court to not have been likely to produce death or serious physical injury, where category 1 cases are. Reckless abuse in a category 2 child abuse case is charged as a class 5 felony, where reckless abuse in category 1 is charged as a class 3 felony. The class 5 felony has less harsh, but still lengthy prison sentence of between 6 months and 2.5 years imprisonment should the offender not be given probation and jail time by the judge. A category 2 child abuse or vulnerable adult charge that is considered to have been criminally negligent is a class 6 felony, and is the least severe charge someone can receive for this crime. It leads to a first offense sentence of either probation with 0 days to 1 year of jail time or a prison sentence that ranges from 4 months to 2 years.

Should you be involved in a child abuse or vulnerable adult abuse case it is important that you speak to a skilled criminal or dui lawyer as soon as possible.

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Cleary Law LLC is dedicated to providing legal services for cases including but not limited to DUI, Disorderly Conduct, and Drug Possession.

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