H. Michael Steinberg has over 32 years experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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Colorado Reckless Child Abuse Case Raises Questions About Charging Decision

In a recent Colorado felony child abuse case in Clifton, Colorado, a man was charged for failing to secure a single oxcycodone pill which resulted in the death of his child.

Manuel Angel Rivera was arrested by investigators with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office who believe they have probable cause to establish that Analeisia Rivera “must have” swallowed the drug and then died as a result of the overdose.

The accused admitted that he had purchased the pill illegally because it assisted him as a sleep aid.

The case is being screened for the charge of reckless child abuse resulting in death, and two counts of illegal drug possession.

The infant’s sister – a three year old told her parents that “sissy would not wake up,” the affidavit said.

“Manuel Rivera stated it was his fault she died,” according to the affidavit. When emergency personnel arrived at the home, Manuel Rivera was “distraught and screaming” and was forced to move away from the child by deputies so paramedics could work on her..

The infant girl had 13 times the therapeutic level of the opium-derived painkiller and she died from “oxycodone intoxication.”

H. Michael’s Take

Colorado Child Abuse cases turn on the strength of the investigation performed by the first responders to the call. The infant’s death here was clearly an accident and not intentional. Many of us use prescription medications that are very powerful in the hands of children. Many of them fatal.

Often we do not secure these medications as we should. The issue here is whether the adult was “reckless” in not securing every pill. His actions at the scene – most probably the result of his extreme guilt – may have been enough to establish probable cause for the arrest – but is there enough evidence to convict at trial? On these facts – I suggest not. Emotional reactions to personal feelings of guilt are not the equivalent of hard evidence…

For follow up on this topic – and to study the law in this area – I invite you to refer to my website on Colorado Child Abuse Issues.