People often use the word “hearsay” to indicate second-hand information, but in courtrooms, hearsay is a specific legal term for evidence. It’s a complex rule to understand, and it becomes even more complicated when the case regards accusations of child abuse.
If you’re facing child abuse charges in California, reach out to a domestic violence attorney right away. A conviction can lead to large fines, incarceration, probation, and losing custody of your child.
What Is Hearsay?
In its simplest form, hearsay is when someone testifies to something they did not hear directly from the defendant. There are a few aspects of hearsay. First, the information may be both written or oral. Second, the person testifying the statement must be doing so to prove something as true according to their firsthand account.
It’s not appropriate for a witness to testify about something they overheard about the defendant. For example, say you heard a rumor that a colleague left the scene of a car accident. You cannot testify in criminal court because you did not see the hit-and-run, nor did the defendant talk to you about it, so you have no direct knowledge of the incident.
Exceptions to the Hearsay Rule in Child Abuse Cases
There are some exceptions to the hearsay rule when child abuse is involved. The first covers statements that the victim made if they were a minor at the time of trial or under 12 when the alleged abuse occurred. If this happens, then the court would conduct a separate hearing without the jury to determine the statement’s reliability. If court officials deem it admissible, the child would not have to testify in person.
However, there might be times when the child cannot testify in court. For example, the child may be too young. There are other cases where the family may not want the child in court for fear that the defendant would threaten them for telling the truth. When prosecutors cannot use child statements as evidence, there must be substantial proof that the negligence or abuse occurred for what the child said to be legitimate in the eyes of the court.
Possible Penalties for Child Abuse in California
California Penal Code 273d makes it illegal to impose physical injury or cruel punishment on a child. Child abuse is a “wobbler” offense, meaning prosecutors can charge it as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the defendant’s prior criminal history and the facts of the case.
If the court finds you guilty of a misdemeanor, you may face up to one year in county jail and up to $6,000 in fines. However, punishment is more severe when the charge is a felony. You may serve between two and six years in prison, plus an additional four years if you have a prior felony child abuse conviction within 10 years. You may also have to pay a fine of up to $6,000.
Experienced Domestic Violence Attorney in California Is Here for You
If you’re facing domestic violence charges in California, you must retain legal counsel immediately. State prosecutors take these charges very seriously and will be aggressive in court. Your best chance at a favorable outcome is to partner with Attorney Dod of Dod Law.
False allegations are common in domestic violence cases. There can easily be a misunderstanding when a child is involved. For more than 17 years, Attorney Dod has represented people facing accusations in California, and he will aggressively protect your rights.
Call 619-814-5110 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.