What Kind of Facts Can Be Used to Show a Culpable State of Mind in a Child Abuse Case?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Nov 23, 2019 | 0 Comments

A woman in Delaware is being accused of child abuse after one of her children was brought to the hospital with facial injuries. The case involves some disturbing facts that could be used to prove that she acted knowingly and intentionally.

Delaware Woman Arrested, Charged With Child Abuse

The case began on November 14, when police were called to a hospital in Milton, Delaware. The officers found a 12-year-old girl with significant injuries to her face. She had been brought to the hospital by her father after she had escaped from her mother's house.

When police went to the mother's house to investigate, they found a 14-year-old and a 4-year-old in her care. There, officers apparently found evidence that the mother beat the children with baseball bats, stilettos, and belts. She was arrested without incident and is facing numerous charges.

A Wide Spectrum of Charges for Child Abuse Cases

Pennsylvania, like Delaware, does not have a specific criminal statute for child abuse. Instead, both states rely on other statutes to cover intentional injuries sustained by children and caused by their caretakers.

For example, the woman in Delaware is being accused of:

Because these offenses were allegedly committed against a family member, they will all be treated as crimes of domestic violence.

Mental State Required for a Conviction

All of these offenses, though, require prosecutors prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant acted with a culpable state of mind. A sufficiently culpable state of mind will depend on the criminal statute, but will nearly always be one of the following four:

  1. With criminal negligence
  2. Recklessly
  3. Knowingly
  4. Intentionally

A lot of assault charges that stem from child abuse or domestic violence allegations require the allegedly abusive conduct to be done intentionally. Some, though, only require conduct done knowingly, or with an understanding that the action will cause a specific result.

Evidence of a Culpable State of Mind Can Come from Anywhere

Prosecutors cannot read a defendant's mind, so they have to show that they acted with a culpable one by pointing to what they said and did at the time of the alleged offense. A defendant's statements and actions can be used as manifestations of what they were thinking.

In this case, there are apparently two particularly damning pieces of evidence hidden at the end of the news coverage of the arrest:

  • The window frames in the house had blocks in them that prevented them from being opened far enough to escape
  • The glass in the windows is frosted to keep people from seeing inside

Prosecutors are going to argue that these two pieces of information show that the mother acted not only intentionally, but also with premeditation, as well. They will argue that the mother took action that would allow her to abuse her children, in the future.

Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer Joseph D. Lento

Child abuse allegations are severe. However, there are still ways to defend against them.

Criminal defense lawyer Joseph D. Lento can help. Contact him online or call his law office in Philadelphia at (215) 535-5353.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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