Child Abuse and Neglect in Virginia

The offense of child abuse and neglect as defined in § 18.2-371.1 of the Virginia Code is one of the few crimes that can be charged for an omission as well as an overt act. This means that you can be charged for any alleged abuse towards a child but, also, for failing to provide adequate care or treatment. For this reason, abuse and neglect cases are unique and require extensive analysis

What is Child Abuse and Neglect?

A. Any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a child under the age of 18 who by willful act or willful omission or refusal to provide any necessary care for the child’s health causes or permits serious injury to the life or health of such child is guilty of a Class 4 felony. For purposes of this subsection, “serious injury” includes but is not limited to (i) disfigurement, (ii) a fracture, (iii) a severe burn or laceration, (iv) mutilation, (v) maiming, (vi) forced ingestion of dangerous substances, and (vii) life-threatening internal injuries. For purposes of this subsection, “willful act or willful omission” includes operating or engaging in the conduct of a child welfare agency as defined in § 63.2-100 without first obtaining a license such person knows is required by Subtitle IV (§ 63.2-1700 et seq.) of Title 63.2 or after such license has been revoked or has expired and not been renewed.


  1.  Any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a child under the age of 18 whose willful act or omission in the care of such child was so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life is guilty of a Class 6 felony.
  2. If a prosecution under this subsection is based solely on the accused parent having left the child at a hospital or emergency medical services agency, it shall be an affirmative defense to prosecution of a parent under this subsection that such parent safely delivered the child to a hospital that provides 24-hour emergency services or to an attended emergency medical services agency that employs emergency medical services personnel, within the first 14 days of the child’s life. In order for the affirmative defense to apply, the child shall be delivered in a manner reasonably calculated to ensure the child’s safety.

C.  Any parent, guardian, or other person having care, custody, or control of a minor child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination shall not, for that reason alone, be considered in violation of this section.

But What Does That Mean?

Most child abuse cases are prosecuted because of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. Although corporal punishment is not illegal in Virginia, a punishment that causes physical or emotional injury can also be charged.

Sentencing and Punishment

Child Abuse and Neglect can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony in the state of VA, depending on whether or not it resulted in serious bodily injury or disease.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor, it is a  Class 1, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2500.

If you are charged with a felony, it is a Class 4 punishable two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

What to do if Charged with Child Abuse or Neglect?

Being charged with child abuse or neglect is a very serious matter. It is important to secure legal representation as soon as possible to protect defendants through the criminal process, open avenues for rehabilitation and keep imprisonment sentences as low as possible. If you, a family member, or a friend were charged with child abuse or neglect, contact Battlefield Law Group PLLC’s child abuse lawyers for a free case consultation.