A babysitter in Clarksville , Tn. was arrested on child abuse this week . The allegation is that one of the children she was watching wandered off from her care. . From the news report , it does not appear to be any intentional act of abuse , but merely neglect.  It was reported that the babysitter thought the boy was outside playing and did not check on him for over an hour. Is this a criminal offense ?

Under Tennessee criminal law , punishment is different based upon the age of the child . In this case , the child was 7. The government must prove that the babysitter " knowingly " abuses the child under 18 years of age in such a manner as to inflict injury commits a Class A misdemeanor . However if the abused child is eight (8) years of age or less , the penalty is a Class D felony. A lessor charge of child abuse exists where a person knowingly abuses or neglects a child as to adversely affect the child’s health or welfare. The key point the government has to prove is did the defendant know what he or she is doing.

So , the first analysis in this case or any other child abuse case in Tennessee is to assess whether the conduct was accidental . Second , was the child injured. In this case , no injuries were mentioned in the report. What was the conduct ? Accident or an intentional act. Is the mother who lets her kids play outside guilty of child abuse if they get hit by a car playing a game ?