If a claim of child abuse is true, depending on the nature of the offense, child abuse can indeed send you to prison—or at least require a visit to your local jail.
Take the case of a Texas man who accidentally discharged a pistol loaded with blanks—which can be dangerous—and shot his grandson in the left shoulder at a wedding in southeast Nebraska.
The boy, 12, was taken to an area hospital for treatment and later transferred to a hospital in Omaha. His injury was not considered to be life-threatening, but he remained in the hospital.
His grandfather, Michael Gardner, was not arrested at the wedding since deputies believed the shooting was accidental and did not feel the public was in danger. However, deputies seized the weapon and the spent shell casing from Gardner.
Then, on Monday, October 2, Gardner turned himself in to be charged with felony child abuse for negligently firing a firearm and injuring someone.
Being charged with a crime can be frightening and confusing, especially if you’re facing a federal offense. Understand your rights and get answers to the top questions about federal crimes in Texas.
Visit from Texas led to child abuse offense
He and his grandson were both visiting from Odessa, Texas, so the man could officiate at a wedding on Saturday, September 30.
According to CBS News, someone forgot the wedding rings, so the ceremony was running 45 minutes late, and guests were scattered at the Hillside Events venue in Denton, Nebraska, near Lincoln.
Michael Gardner, 62, decided to get everyone’s attention and “start the wedding with a bang” by shooting a revolver into the air outside, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Ben Houchin said at a press conference.
But when he cocked back the hammer on the revolver, it slipped and shot his grandson, who was standing next to him, causing an injury to his left shoulder, Houchin said.
Investigators ascertained that Gardner had loaded the gun with a Colt .45 blank by putting black powder into a casing and gluing it shut. Deputies believe the expelled glue is what injured the boy when the gun fired.
“We do not believe Michael intended to hurt his grandchild, but the act was not very smart,” Houchin said. “Just another example of playing with firearms, no matter what, if they’re blanks, bad things can certainly happen.”
According to the San Antonio Express-News on mysanantonio.com, a reporter asked why the sheriff’s office arrested Gardner if the shooting was a mistake. Houchin replied that it was because of the use of a firearm, as well as the seriousness of the injuries, and because the incident fit state law requirements for such an arrest.
How much prison time can come from this child abuse?
Under Nebraska law, as under Texas law, there are various forms of child abuse. Nebraska law holds child abuse to be a Class IIIA felony if the child suffers serious injury as a result of a criminally negligent act.
Punishment for such a felony crime in Nebraska can be up to 3 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000 and 18 months of post-release supervision, also known as probation. Since the offense occurred in Nebraska, the crime falls under Nebraska law, even though the defendant was from Texas.
Texas and other states have their own child abuse laws
Texas law defines child abuse as an act or omission that results in emotional or physical injury to a child. That can include:
Corporal punishment is prohibited when it is excessive or abusive. Also, anyone who suspects a case of child abuse or neglect must report it or face a penalty.
What are child abuse punishments in Texas?
Some of the worst child abuse punishments in Texas occur when the offense involves child sexual abuse, child sexual assault or online solicitation of a minor.
Online solicitation of a minor
A school superintendent in Harris County, home of Houston, was arrested recently and charged with online solicitation of a minor (that being a person 16 or younger). A 2nd-degree felony in Texas, the crime involves using electronic means to invite or solicit a minor to meet an adult who wants the minor to engage in sexual activity.
Punishments for online solicitation can include 2 to 10 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Even after release from prison, an offender must register as a sex offender, a status that can hamper someone’s choice of employment and choice of where they can live.
Possession of child pornography
Possession of child pornography can also lead to severe punishments in Texas.
A Spring, Texas, man who pleaded guilty to 3 counts of promotion or possession of child pornography in Montgomery County was sentenced to 30 years. That meant 10 years in prison for each count, or the maximum sentence in Texas for child porn possession.
Aggravated sexual assault of a child under 6 years old
Even worse is the crime of aggravated sexual assault of a child who was under 6 years old at the time of the crime. An “aggravated” assault can involve weapons, multiple offenders and violent injuries.
Such a crime against a child under 6 in Texas can lead to at least 25 years in prison and up to 99 years or life in prison, coupled with a fine of up to $10,000.
How do I defend against a claim of child abuse?
Not every claim of child abuse is true. False allegations or claims of child abuse may be made to gain leverage in a custody fight. Other claims may be made as revenge—or due to a case of mistaken identity.
If you face an accusation, claim or charge of child abuse in Houston, Sugar Land, The Woodlands or elsewhere in Southeast Texas, you should know how to protect your legal rights and get the best defense you can find for the legal arena. That means engaging a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer or attorney.
Contact Houston’s award-winning Neal Davis Law Firm today to arrange a private consultation for your case. Your future and your freedom may depend on it.