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Physical abuse of a child: failing to act to prevent great bodily harm defense attorneys: (414) 270-0202

Physical abuse of a child: failing to act to prevent great bodily harm is a serious crime in Wisconsin.  This charge is a Class F felony, meaning it’s punishable by up to 12.5 years in prison.  That 12.5 years in prison breaks down into 7.5 years initial confinement and 5 years extended supervision.  Certainly the fact that this charge carries over a decade worth of prison indicates exactly how serious the government considers these charges.

Child abuse cases, unfortunately, sometimes attract the attention of news media.  Certainly that’s frequently the case when the charges involve great bodily harm.  But when we add the fact that the defendant was responsible for the child’s welfare, there’s usually more attention.  We understand that facing a criminal charge is difficult.  Certainly we understand that adding the news media makes it even more difficult.

Hiring a top criminal defense attorney makes the process more bearable.  We understand what you’re going through. Our job isn’t to judge you.  We certainly recognize that the criminal charges you’re facing are the most serious issue you’ve ever faced in your life.  And finally, we recognize that what you need right now is a strong ally.  We’re here to help you.  And we’re here to fight your case.  Contact us at (414) 270-0202.

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What is physical abuse of a child: failing to act to prevent great bodily harm?

Section 948.03(4)(a) of the Wisconsin Statutes prohibits physical abuse of a child: failing to act to prevent great bodily harm.  The law indicates:

(a) A person responsible for the child’s welfare is guilty of a Class F felony if that person has knowledge that another person intends to cause, is causing or has intentionally or recklessly caused great bodily harm to the child and is physically and emotionally capable of taking action which will prevent the bodily harm from occurring or being repeated, fails to take that action and the failure to act exposes the child to an unreasonable risk of great bodily harm by the other person or facilitates the great bodily harm to the child that is caused by the other person.

Understanding this law isn’t incredibly difficult.  What’s prohibited here isn’t the actual abuse (although that’s certainly a crime itself).  Instead, if you’re charged with this offense, you’re someone responsible for the child.  And as that person responsible for the child, you do one of two things:  you fail to take action to protect the child, exposing them to a risk of great bodily harm.  Or, finally, in other circumstances you facilitate the other actor in causing great bodily harm to the child.

What are the elements of the offense?

All crimes in Wisconsin break down into numerous parts.  Each part must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  And finally, we refer to each of those parts as elements.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 2108A provides the elements of physical abuse of a child: failing to act to prevent great bodily harm:

  • Firstly, the defendant was a person responsible for the welfare of the child; and
  • Secondly, the victim had not attained the age of 18 years at the time of the alleged offense; and
  • Thirdly, the other actor intentionally caused great bodily harm to the victim; and
  • Fourthly, the defendant knew or believed that the other actor intended to cause great bodily harm to the victim; and
  • The defendant was physically or emotionally capable of taking action which would have prevented the great bodily harm from occurring; and
  • The defendant failed to take that action; and
  • Finally, the defendant’s alleged failure to act facilitated the great bodily harm to the victim that was intentionally caused by the other actor.

Finally, the government must prove all seven elements of the offenses.  If they cannot, you cannot be convicted of the offense.

Important child abuse definitions

Firstly, a person responsible for the welfare of the child is defined in section 948.01(3) of the Wisconsin Statutes:

(3) “Person responsible for the child’s welfare” includes the child’s parent; stepparent; guardian; foster parent; an employee of a public or private residential home, institution, or agency; other person legally responsible for the child’s welfare in a residential setting; or a person employed by one legally responsible for the child’s welfare to exercise temporary control or care for the child.

Finally, great bodily harm means injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious permanent disfigurement, or which causes a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ or other serious bodily injury.

A teacher writing on a chalk board.
Physical abuse of a child: failing to act to prevent great bodily harm is a felony in Wisconsin. Contact us immediately for help at (414) 270-0202.

How do we defend my case?

Obviously the first things we’ll look into are the elements.  Can the government prove each element?  If not, certainly that’s an issue.  A reasonable prosecutor will likely dismiss criminal charges upon an actual showing of the failure of an element.  If the element is simply weaker than the others, it could be a way to approach jury trial representation.

But a more substantive approach focuses on the relationship between the abuser and the individual failing to report.  One element requires that the defendant be emotionally or physically capable of taking action to stop the child abuse.  Was the individual committing the child abuse also abusing the defendant who failed to act?  That is simply one potential avenue of attack.

Finally, contact Meyer Van Severen and speak with one of our criminal defense attorneys

Our entire law firm focuses on criminal defense.  That’s all we do.  We don’t handle family law cases, divorces, or anything that won’t help you win your criminal case.  And we’re certainly not a “general practice” law firm.  We specialize in criminal law.  And we know what it will take to help you work through your criminal case.

To speak with our criminal defense lawyers, contact Meyer Van Severen, S.C. immediately at (414) 270-0202.  We’ll set up a free initial consultation and begin planning an aggressive strategy to attack your criminal charges.