Injury to a Child Charges in Texas

 In Criminal

In Texas, the offense of injury to a child, elderly, or disabled is a felony that can be classified as a first degree felony, second degree felony, third degree felony, or state jail felony. How it is classified depends on the circumstances of the offense.

Injury to a Child in Texas

Section 22.04 of the Texas Penal Code provides that a person commits this offense if, through act or omission of an act, he intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes a child:

  • Serious bodily injury;
  • Serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury; or
  • Bodily injury.

Additionally, the Code specifically provides that “an owner, operator, or employee” of a facility for the care of a child, elderly or disabled individual also commits an offense if, by omission, causes a child, elderly or disabled individual to suffer injuries as listed above. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(a-1).

What is a Child for Purposes of Injury to a Child?

A child is a person 14 years of age or younger. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(c).


The degree of injury to the victim may determine the level of the offense. Bodily injury may be very slight.

What is Serious Bodily Injury?

Bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of function bodily member or organ. Tex. Pen. Code §1.07(a)(46). 

What is Bodily Injury?

Physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. Tex. Pen. Code §1.07(a)(8).

Owners, Operators, or Employees of Facilities

The significance of specifically naming owners, operators, and employees of certain facilities lies in the fact that these individuals commit the offense if, with criminal negligence by omission, they cause the injuries above. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(a-1). The Code lists the following facilities: a group nursing facility, assisted living facility, intermediate care facility for persons with mental retardation, or any other institutional care facility. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(a-1).

A person who is not an owner, operator, or employee of a facility must affirmatively act with criminal negligence for his actions to be considered an offense. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(a).

Criminal Negligence

Criminal negligence is composed of two requirements: a substantial and unjustifiable risk exists and the person should have been aware of that risk.

The Texas Penal Code provides that a person acts with criminal negligence if he “ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur.” It goes on to state that the risk must be of such nature and degree that a failure to perceive it would constitute a gross deviation from the standard of care an ordinary person would have exercised under the same circumstances.  Tex. Pen. Code §6.03(d).


An omission constituting an offense under this section is one that causes injury as provided under the statute, and the actor has:

  • A legal duty to act;
  • A statutory duty to act; or
  • Assumed care, custody, or control of a child, elderly, or disabled individual.

Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(a).

Care, Custody, or Control

A person assumes care, custody, or control if—by his actions, words, or conduct—causes a reasonable person to conclude he has accepted responsibility for the protection, food, shelter, and medical care for a child, elderly, or disabled individual. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(d).

Owners, operators, or employees are presumed to accept responsibility for the above for purposes of the care, custody, or control requirement. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(d).

Punishment for Injury to a Child in Texas

The following chart lists the level of the offense with the corresponding punishment for each. Each offense is subject to a potential fine in addition to imprisonment.

Mental StateInjuryOffense LevelPunishment RangePotential Fine
Intentionally or Knowingly CausedSerious Bodily InjuryFirst Degree5-99 years or LifeUp to $10,000
Intentionally or Knowingly CausedSerious mental deficiency, impairment or injuryFirst Degree5-99 years or LifeUp to $10,000
Recklessly CausedSerious Bodily InjurySecond Degree2-20 yearsUp to $10,000
Recklessly CausedSerious mental deficiency, impairment or injurySecond Degree2-20 yearsUp to $10,000
Intentionally or Knowingly CausedBodily Injury to a ChildThird Degree2-10 yearsUp to $10,000
Recklessly CausedBodily Injury to a ChildState Jail Felony180 days - 2 yearsUp to $10,000
Negligently CausedSerious Bodily InjuryState Jail Felony180 days - 2 yearsUp to $10,000
Negligently CausedSerious mental deficiency, impairment or injuryState Jail Felony180 days - 2 yearsUp to $10,000

Affirmative Defenses to Injury to a Child in Texas

Notification of termination of care

It is an affirmative defense if the actor, before the offense occurs, notified the child in person and the child’s parents (or person acting as parent) in writing that the actor would no longer provide care. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(i).

It is also an affirmative defense if before the offense occurred, the actor notified the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services in writing that he would no longer provide care to the child. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(i).

In order to be effective, written notification must contain:

  1. The name and address of the actor;
  2. The name and address of the child; and
  3. The date the care is to be discontinued.

Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(j).

Medical Care

It is a defense if the actor’s act or omission was considered: reasonable medical care as directed by a licensed physician; or emergency medical care was given in good faith and with reasonable care by an unlicensed person. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(k).

Religious Methods

It is an affirmative defense that the act or omission was based on treatment as provided by a “recognized religious method of healing.” Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(l)(1).

Victims of Family Violence

If a person is charged with an act of omission causing serious injury or bodily injury to a child, it is a defense if:

  1. There is no evidence that, before the date of injury, the person was aware of an incident of injury to the child and failed to report the incident; and
  2. The person was a victim of family violence, he did not cause the injury, and he did not reasonably believe that an effort to prevent the injury would have an effect.

Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(l)(2).

Actor Close in Age to Victim

It is an affirmative defense if the actor was no more than three (3) years older than the victim at the time of the offense and the victim was a child at the time of the offense. Tex. Pen. Code §22.04(l)(3).

False Reports of Injury to a Child in Texas

Family Code Section 261.107 makes it a criminal offense to make a false report of child abuse or neglect. Specifically, a person can be charged with making a false report if with the intent to deceive the person made a report of child abuse that was false. A first offense is a State Jail Felony punishable by up to two years in State Jail and a $10,000 fine. A subsequent offense is a third degree felony punishable by two to ten years in prison.

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