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A Case Study in Accusations of Child Abuse
12 Oct 2015

A Case Study in Accusations of Child Abuse

State v. Consaul Explained by Albuquerque Child Abuse Lawyers

Even the most well-meaning of parents or family caregivers can find themselves facing an accusation of child abuse for behavior which the averagealbuquerque child abuse lawyers - Courthouse person would never have considered would result in potential criminal liability. A case decided by the Supreme Court of New Mexico in August, 2014, State v. Consaul demonstrates both the tragic ease in which one may be accused with child abuse and the need for skilled Albuquerque child abuse lawyers to be involved if you are charged with such an offense.

The Facts

Ten-week-old Jack was being watched by his uncle Daniel. Daniel was one of Jack’s main caregivers, but on this night Jack would not stop crying despite Daniel’s efforts. Daniel told police that in an effort born of frustration, Daniel swaddled Jack tightly and placed him in his crib face down.

Unfortunately Jack ended up having a medical episode which required treatment by many doctors and a medical helicopter ride to a specialty hospital. As things got worse doctors asserted that “non-accidental asphyxiation” was the cause of Jack’s injuries, and Daniel was arrested.

The Law

The State brought Daniel to trial on two theories: (1) he intentionally tried to suffocate Jack by pushing his head into a pillow; (2) he was negligent in swaddling Jack and placing him face down (rather than face up) in the crib.

It’s crucial to reflect on the two completely different theories of what Daniel did to attempt to explain a tragic occurrence. On the basis of a doctor’s suspicion (of intentional suffocation) or one statement to the police about carelessness, and Daniel is facing a very serious charge which could ruin his life.

Thankfully, Daniel was represented by experienced lawyers. On appeal, they argued that these two inconsistent acts required separate jury instructions and that the courts had wrongly interpreted the statute at issue for many years by requiring only criminal negligence and not recklessness when considering what level of “mens rea” (Latin for “guilty mind”) was necessary to convict. The Court agreed.

How this Affects Child Abuse Defendants

This is a watershed decision in New Mexico child abuse cases, one which will require experienced Albuquerque child abuse lawyers to use. Thankfully, a simple negligent mistake of placing a child face down in a crib is no longer a crime. However, prosecutors will still attempt to argue that those who has does so are “reckless” in their disregard for the safety of a child. An experienced attorney is necessary to adequately convey to a prosecutor or a jury the difference between these two complicated legal standards.

Contact Albuquerque Child Abuse Lawyers

If you or a friend or loved one has been charged, or you believe will be charged, with any child abuse related charges you need to contact the experienced Albuquerque child abuse lawyers at the Twohig Law Firm today at (505) 898-0400 to schedule a free initial consultation.

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