EXPLANATION OF THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
(Based on Maricopa County, Arizona)
Sample Criminal / Civil Child Abuse Definitions
Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3623 (Criminal Code).
"Abuse" when used in reference to a child, means abuse as defined in ARS 8-546, subsection A, except for those acts in the definition which are declared unlawful by another statute of this title...
"Physical Injury" means the impairment of physical condition and includes but shall not be limited to any skin bruising, pressure sores, bleeding, failure to thrive, malnutrition/dehydration, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma, soft tissue swelling, injury to any internal organ or any physical condition which imperils health or welfare.
"Serious physical injury" means physical injury, which creates a reasonable risk of death, or which causes serious or permanent disfigurement, or serious impairment of the function of any bodily organ or limb.
Crime of child abuse: Under circumstances likely to produce death or serious physical injury, (or under circumstances other than those likely to produce death or serious physical injury) any person who causes a child to suffer physical injury, or, having the care or custody of such child, causes or permits such child to be placed in a situation where its person or health is endangered is guilty of an offense...
Note: Sexual Offenses are defined independently of child (physical) abuse in most jurisdictions.
Arizona Revised Statutes 8-4546 (Child Welfare Code)
"Abuse" means the infliction of physical injury, impairment of bodily function or disfigurement or the infliction of serious emotional damage as evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or untoward aggressive behavior and which emotional damage is diagnosed by a medical doctor or psychologist ... and shall include inflicting or allowing sexual abuse.... sexual conduct with a minor...sexual assault...molestation of a child...commercial sexual exploitation of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor... or incest.
NOTE: The child welfare code also covers abandonment and neglect in other definitions.
CASA Example Experience
Police officers were called to investigate a report made by a neighbor who heard a child screaming in a next-door apartment. Upon arrival at the apartment complex, the officers went to the apartment in question and spoke with the occupants -- the mother (Beth), her boyfriend (John), and a five year old child (Beth's daughter, Alison). During the investigation, officers questioned John and Beth about bruises that were evident on Alison's body. Both John and Beth stated that the bruises were the result of an accident. The police officers continued to investigate this incident and also notified the Department of Economic Security (DES). The prosecutor, however, eventually decided not to file charges.
A concurrent DES investigation revealed serious concerns about John and his attitude toward Alison, about Beth and her view that physical discipline toward Alison was appropriate and necessary, and about Alison and her apparent fear of John. Subsequently, upon a finding of abuse and neglect in the juvenile court, Tom was appointed as a CASA for Alison and a protective order was issued in the case. The protective order required that John and Beth abstain from abusive or offensive conduct toward Alison and refrain from any physical discipline of her whatsoever. In addition, the order required that John and Beth fully cooperate with DES and Mental Health, and allows DES and CASA access to Alison's home. Further, John was ordered not to have any contact with Alison unless through a supervised visit conducted by DES. This order was issued prior to the prosecutor's decision to not file charges.
John did plan a visit with Alison at DES. During the supervised visit, John convinced the supervisor to allow him and Alison to go by themselves to the water fountain for a drink. John and Alison returned a few moments later. Several weeks later, Alison arrived at school and was having difficulty sitting in her chair. She complained of feeling pain and, upon examination of her back, legs, and buttocks, Alison's teacher discovered numerous welts. When questioned about the welts on her body, Alison stated that John had moved back into the home and was responsible. The teacher made a report, which resulted in Alison's being removed from the home and being placed in foster care. She later told Tom that she had lied about the bruises; they resulted from her falling down the stairs.
Based on this report, the prosecutor decided to file criminal charges for both the prior and the recent incidents of physical abuse. John was arrested and held in jail. Although Tom did not attempt to reach John after he was arrested, John sent Tom a letter stating that he was not guilty and that he had no knowledge of the marks on Alison's body.
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