Navigating the Legal Landscape: Physical Child Abuse Laws and Defending Your Rights

For over two decades, The Marshall Defense Firm has specialized in representing those who have been accused of crimes of a particularly sensitive nature, including things like child physical abuse. 

In Washington, adults can be found guilty of Assault of a Child if they physically harm a child who is thirteen years old or younger. The specific degree of the crime (i.e. first, second, or third) depends on what is alleged to have happened and takes into consideration things like the intent of the person being accused and the extent of the injury that occurred. 

Regardless of whether you are charged with a first-, second-, or third-degree offense, Assault of a Child is a felony, so a conviction involving physical child abuse can have serious consequences for the accused.  Emotions are often heightened in cases where a child is the alleged victim, and it is important to have an attorney who understands and can help you navigate the challenges this presents. 

Defending Someone Accused of Physical Child Abuse 

Whether your charges stem from allegations of intentional abuse, a suspicious fracture, spanking that resulted in bruising, or other circumstances, we have developed an effective approach to these cases over the years. 

We start by listening to you. It is important to hear your story regardless of what may have been said by the child or reported to the police. If you tell us you are innocent, we will set out to prove you are innocent. However, we defend the guilty too, and no less zealously than those who assert they are innocent.  

We will work to develop a theory of the case – a story that explains the evidence against you. We cannot simply assert our client “didn’t do it;” we must explain how you came to be falsely accused. Is there an alternate explanation for how the injury occurred or who caused it? 

Take, for example, one of our previous clients who was charged with Assault of a Child in the Second Degree. He was accused of causing widespread bruising on the buttocks of his four-year-old son during a weekend visitation. While it is lawful for a parent to physically discipline a child so long as the discipline used is reasonable and moderate, that was not the defense asserted in this situation. Instead, our theory was that it was not our client who had caused the bruising at all, but instead the mother’s new boyfriend. We believed the mother and her boyfriend then intentionally misled the boy to attribute the injuries to his father.

Because we had the opportunity to interview the child leading up to trial, we were able to cast doubt on his reliability as a witness. He proved to have an active imagination and provided a description of the incident that was obviously not truthful and sounded more like something out of a science fiction movie. 

Once it became evident that the key witness in the case could not be trusted to testify truthfully, the prosecutor decided to dismiss the case against our client.  

Interviewing Children 

Our expertise and approach in interviewing children is one of the things that sets our firm apart. It requires a special set of skills and different techniques than those used when interviewing adults. We also understand how false memories can be formed during an interview and recognize when best practices have not been followed in an investigation and could be influencing the allegations against our client. 

The law in Washington permits us to interview any child who is going to be a witness for the prosecution before trial. It is often the most important event of the case, as the example above highlights. 

While most interviews don’t result in dismissal, many of our interviews seriously weaken the prosecution’s case at trial or strengthen the defense theory of the case; either of those puts us in a better position to secure a favorable outcome for you. 

Interviewing a child presents special challenges. We understand those challenges and seek to interview children under conditions that will put them at ease and help us get to the truth. To learn more about the approach we take when interviewing children, you can watch a short video here that describes one technique we might use to build a stronger defense for trial. 

If you or a loved one is facing an allegation of physical child abuse in Washington, the Marshall Defense Firm is here to help. Contact us at 206.826.1400 or to schedule an appointment. 

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