Neglect of a Dependent in Indiana
The law defining the neglect of a dependent in Indiana is designed to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. As such, the harsh penalties prescribed by this law clearly demonstrate the state takes a no-tolerance approach towards combatting neglect and is willing to take swift action to protect children around the state. Given the serious nature of these criminal charges, it’s vital that all Hoosiers have some understanding of what constitutes neglect of a dependent in Indiana, and the potential penalties they may face if convicted of this offense.
While this post should provide solid background on the subject, it’s important to understand that if you’re facing charges of neglect in Indiana, you’ll want to speak with an experienced and skilled Indiana criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Neglect of a dependent is a felony offense in Indiana and requires swift legal action by the accused. If you’re not sure who to contact or would like to set up a free case consultation with an attorney today, contact the Law Office of Keffer Hirschauer LLP at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form.
Our Indianapolis-based criminal defense law firm takes a team-based approach to all criminal defense cases. This means that we have the resources to thoroughly investigate the allegations made against you, consult with experts who may serve as witnesses in your case, and ultimately, see your case through to the best possible outcome.
What is Neglect of a Dependent?
As outlined in Indiana Code 35-46-1-4, a person may be charged with the neglect of a dependent in Indiana for the following acts:
- Placing the dependent in a situation that endangers their life or health
- Abandoning or cruelly confining the dependent
- Depriving the dependent of necessary support
- Depriving the dependent of education as required by law
At its lowest level, the offense is classified as a Level 6 felony. However, in situations not involving education, it can be elevated to a Level 5 felony if the neglect results in bodily injury or is committed in a location where certain illegal activities, like dealing in or manufacturing methamphetamine, are taking place.
Additionally, neglect of a dependent in Indiana is considered a Level 5 felony if it consists of cruel confinement or abandonment that deprives a dependent of necessary food, water, or sanitary facilities; consists of confinement in an area not intended for human habitation; or involves the unlawful use of restraints like handcuffs, rope, or tape.
In more serious situations of neglect, the charge may even be classified as a Level 3 felony. This can occur when neglect, not stemming from education, results in serious bodily injury. Under Indiana Code 35-31.5-2-292, serious bodily injury means “any bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious permanent disfigurement; unconsciousness; extreme pain; permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ; or loss of a fetus.”
Neglect of Dependent Resulting in Death in Indiana
Criminal charges pertaining to the neglect of a dependent resulting in death in Indiana is treated with utmost severity. If it is found that neglect led to the death of a dependent who was less than fourteen years old and the perpetrator is at least eighteen years old, the offense is classified as a Level 1 felony. This is the highest felony classification in the state of Indiana and reflects the serious nature and devasting impact of this criminal offense.
Under Indiana Code Indiana Code 35-46-1-4, there are three specific statutory defenses for those charged with the neglect of a dependent in Indiana. Each of these defenses provides a legal framework to protect individuals from prosecution for child neglect under specific and defined circumstances, while also ensuring the safety and welfare of children. These defenses relate to Indiana’s Safe Haven Law; a person’s religious beliefs; and transfer of child custody.
Safe Haven Law Defense: The Indiana Safe Haven Law allows a person to give up an unwanted infant in an anonymous manner without fear of arrest or prosecution. Provided that the baby shows no signs of intentional abuse, the person leaving the baby is not required to provide any information about themselves. After the baby is examined and provided with medical treatment (if relevant), it will be taken into custody by the Indiana Department of Child Services and placed with a caregiver.
Under the criminal statute defining the neglect of a dependent, it is applicable defense for a person charged with this crime to have left a dependent child, no more than 30 days old, in a designated newborn safety device or left with an emergency medical services provider. However, this defense is only valid when the prosecution’s case is solely based on the act of leaving the child in the safety device or with the medical provider, and there was no bodily or serious bodily injury to the child as a result of this act.
Religious Belief Defense: Indiana law also provides a statutory defense for neglect on religious grounds. This defense is applicable if the accused person, in the legitimate practice of their religious belief, chose to provide treatment by spiritual means through prayer instead of medical care, for their dependent. This defense recognizes the rights of individuals to practice their religious beliefs, even in the context of making decisions about medical care for their dependents.
Exclusions for Legal Transactions: The statute also clarifies situations that do not constitute child neglect in the context of transferring custody. It excludes scenarios where property is transferred or received under a court order in connection with proceedings related to child custody, support, or welfare. This provision ensures that legal transfers of custody or control of a child, conducted under proper legal proceedings, are not mistaken for child neglect or child selling, which is classified as a Level 6 felony.
Potential Penalties for Neglect of a Dependent in Indiana
Indiana holds a firm belief that children should be protected from violence and trauma. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the potential criminal penalties resulting from a conviction for neglect of a dependent in Indiana are among the harshest. A person convicted of neglect at its lowest level, a Level 6 felony could face between six months to 2.5 years in prison. From there, the penalties escalate in compliance with the Indiana Sentencing Guidelines. Those convicted of a Level 5 felony would face between one and six years in prison; while those convicted of Level 3 felony neglect would face between three and sixteen years in prison.
Sentence for Neglect of a Dependent Resulting in Death
As provided by Indiana Code 35-50-2-4, a person convicted of neglect of a dependent resulting in death may be sentenced to between 20 and 40 years in prison, with the advisory sentence being 30 years. In addition, the person may be fined up to $10,000.
The Role of a Defense Lawyer in Cases of Child Neglect
As should be obvious by now, cases involving the neglect of a dependent in Indiana are treated with utmost seriousness, given their profound implications on the well-being of a child. When facing such charges, hiring an experienced Indiana defense lawyer is crucial. Skilled in navigating the complexities of Indiana’s legal system, these attorneys play a critical role in ensuring a fair and just process for the accused.
First, a defense lawyer will meticulously examine the circumstances surrounding the allegations. This involves scrutinizing the evidence presented by the prosecution to determine its reliability and sufficiency. If they believe that any of the evidence lacks reliability or is insufficient in warranting the charges, they’ll proceed to challenge the evidence, aiming to prove that it falls short of establishing neglect beyond a reasonable doubt.
Understanding that accusations of neglect can arise from a variety of situations, defense attorneys in Indiana often also explore the intent behind the actions of the accused. Lack of intent or knowledge about the neglectful nature of their actions forms a significant part of the defense in many cases. In instances where mental illness or incapacity is a factor, a lawyer might argue that the accused was incapable of providing the necessary care, thus shifting the focus towards treatment rather than punishment.
False accusations, possibly stemming from misunderstandings or custody disputes, are another area where a defense lawyer’s expertise is crucial. They work to uncover the truth, protecting their clients from wrongful charges.
In scenarios where neglect is alleged due to economic hardship, the defense emphasizes the efforts made by the accused under challenging circumstances. This approach humanizes the accused, showing their attempts to provide care within their means.
Additionally, a defense lawyer may pursue a defense strategy that advocates for the parental rights and discretion of their client. In these situations, they may argue that certain actions, deemed neglectful by the prosecution, could fall within reasonable parental judgment.
Ultimately, in child neglect cases, an experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney is not just a legal representative, but a crucial protector of rights. Their role is to pursue the best possible outcome in the case against their client, and to ensure that the accused receives a fair evaluation under the law.
Facing Charges of Child Neglect in Indiana?
If you’re currently facing charges or being investigated for child neglect in Indiana, you’re likely feeling quite overwhelmed. This is understandable, especially given all that is at stake in this situation. However, the most important thing you can do at this time is contact an attorney. This will ensure that the correct steps are being taken to protect you and your future.
The Indiana criminal defense lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have a strong grasp on the law governing neglect of a dependent in Indiana. They also understand how prosecutors often approach these types of cases, and the best defense strategies to deploy when defending clients accused of neglect. Suffice to say, if you choose to retain counsel with our firm, you can rest assured that we’ll pursue every avenue available to secure the optimal outcome in the case made against you – whether that be minimizing the penalties, reducing the charges, or having the case dismissed altogether.
To begin taking the right steps forward in this matter, schedule a free case consultation with our team today by calling 317-857-0160 or by completing our online contact form. We are here to provide sound, effective, judgment-free legal counsel to those who need it the most.