Recently, a 6-year-old boy in Fergus Falls, MN tragically died after suffering horrific abuse. Prior to his fatal beating by his caregivers, he had been beaten with a stick or a rod, had hair pulled out of his head, and had been scalded or burnt. Moreover, many of his wounds had been inflicted while he was duct taped to a wall.
A similar case occurred in 2014, when a boy was fatally beaten by his caregivers despite repeated attempts to intervene by child protective services. Together, these cases highlight Minnesota’s relative lack of resources for abused children, which lawmakers aim to improve by better training child protective services workers and improving mandatory reporting.
High profile cases such as this also mean that law enforcement and people obligated to report child abuse (for example, teachers and physicians) will be on the lookout for child abuse in Minnesota. Unfortunately, this overzealousness may cause some Minnesota parents to be wrongfully accused of this heinous crime.
Below we cover Minnesota’s laws on child abuse, and the associated criminal penalties.
What Minnesota Law Says about Child Abuse
In Minnesota, child abuse is defined as an intentional mental or physical injury to a child, which can be inflicted by deprivation, sexual abuse, unreasonably harsh disciplinary methods, neglect, abandonment, or solicitation of the child for sex.
There are a number of different means of child abuse, and abusers face distinct charges and penalties for the specific form of abuse inflicted upon the victim.
Neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment. A caregiver can commit child neglect through any of the following acts:
- Failing to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical or mental health care, education or supervision.
- Failing to protect a child from conditions that endanger the child.
- Failing to ensure that a child is educated as is required by state law.
- Exposing a child to illicit drugs during pregnancy.
- Causing emotional harm to a child.
Child neglect is a gross misdemeanor, and may be charged as felony in severe cases. Child neglect is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Physical abuse occurs when a child’s caregiver inflicts physical injury on a child, or threatens to do the child substantial harm. Injuries from physical abuse can range from minor cuts and bruises to fatal injuries.
There is no specific law against physical abuse in Minnesota, and this offense is typically charged as malicious punishment of a child, which is either a gross misdemeanor or a felony depending on the degree of injury inflicted on the child. This is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Mental injury occurs when a caregiver inflicts harm on a child’s mental state, as evidenced by significant and observable impairment of the child’s normal functioning. Mental injury is also charged as malicious punishment of a child.
Sexual abuse occurs when a child is the victim of a criminal sexual act or threatened act committed by a caregiver, a person who has significant relationship to the child, or a person in a position of authority.
The penalty for sexual abuse will depend on the sex act in question. Regardless of the specific charge, child sexual abuse is a quite serious offense that is almost always a felony and punishable by decades of imprisonment. Further, charges for a sex crime committed against a child will result in a stigma that comes back to haunt you for the rest of your life – even if you are not convicted.
Don’t Let Child Abuse Charges in Minnesota Ruin Your Future
No one would deny that child abuse is a problem in our state, or that it needs to be stopped. However, that does not mean that you should simply lie down and accept your fate if you are charged.
Fight for justice. Fight for your freedom. Fight to make sure you have a future.
How do you start? By reaching out to a knowledgeable Minnesota criminal lawyer.