Location:
CHILD ABUSE;
Scope:
Connecticut laws/regulations; Other States laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


January 23, 2012

 

2012-R-0058

PENALTIES FOR FAILING TO REPORT SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE

By: Susan Price, Senior Attorney

You asked us to survey the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to identify what statutory penalties they set when a person who is legally required to report suspected child abuse willfully fails to do so. You also asked if states with stiffer penalties had experienced a significant increase in the number of complaints what were either frivolous or unsubstantiated when compared with states with lesser penalties.

SUMMARY

A December 2009 report from the U.S. Administration on Children, Youth, and Families details jail time, fines, or both, that states; the District of Columbia; and Puerto Rico can impose on mandated reporters who fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Failure to report is a crime, in most cases classified a misdemeanor, in 39 states (all except Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico). In Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, and Minnesota, misdemeanors are upgraded to felonies for failing to report comparatively serious situations; in Illinois, Kentucky, and Texas, second or subsequent offenses are classified as felonies.

Some states, including Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Virginia, impose fines only, but do not indicate whether the reporter's inaction is a civil or criminal matter. (Connecticut's Judicial Branch considers its statute to be civil in nature, but PA 11-93 indicates that a criminal prosecutor assesses the fine). Maryland, North Carolina, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico did not have penalty statutes as of the date this report was issued.

We found several media reports in which individuals are quoted as cautioning that imposing stiffer penalties on those who fail to report abuse or neglect may overwhelm child welfare agencies with frivolous or unsubstantiated reports. But we could find no empirical support for this concern. We have contacted child welfare officials in four states with comparatively stiff penalties (California, Delaware, Florida, and Illinois) and asked anecdotally if they had experienced significant increases in such complaints after they increased their failure-to-report penalties. We are waiting for their responses. However, even if they report an uptick in frivolous or unsubstantiated complaints, we could not conclude that this circumstance was caused by the penalty enhancement.

Table 1 shows state penalties by state, identifying parenthetically the state of mind required to trigger a reporter's statutory liability. We also include the range of penalties when they are specifically included in the reporting statute.

Table 1: Mandated Reporters: Penalties for Failure to Report Suspected Child Abuse and Reporter's State of Mind

State/Statute

Statutory Penalty (Required State of Mind)

Alabama

Ala. Code 26-14-13

Misdemeanor (knowing)

● imprisonment for up to 6 months or a fine of up to $500

Alaska

Alaska Stat. 47.17.068

Class A misdemeanor (knowing, or should have known)

Arizona

Az. Rev. Stat. 13-3620(O)

Class A misdemeanor (state of mind not specified)

Class 6 felony if failure to report involves a “reportable offense,” (generally criminal statutes involving child sexual abuse)

Arkansas

Ark. Ann. Code 12-18-201, -202, and -206

1st degree Class A misdemeanor (knowing)

2nd degree Class C misdemeanor (reckless )

Class A misdemeanor: unlawful restraint on child abuse reporting (applies to pre-schools, day care centers, and schools)

California

Cal. Penal Code 11166(c); 11166.01

Misdemeanor (state of mind not specified)

imprisonment for up to 6 months, a $1,000 fine, or both

Unclassified offense: supervisor impeding others from filing report

imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both

Unclassified offense: willfully failing or impeding report, when abuse results in death or great bodily injury

imprisonment for up to 1 year, fine of up to $5,000, or both

(Members of the clergy are exempt if information was obtained during confession)

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. 19-3-304(4)

Class 3 misdemeanor (state of mind not specified)

Connecticut

CGS 17a-101a

Fine between $500 and $2,500 (state of mind not specified)

Delaware

Del. Ann. Code, Tit. 16 914

Civil fine of up to $10,000 for 1st offense

Civil fine of up to $50,000 for subsequent offense

District of Columbia

D.C. Code Ann. 4-1321.07

Unclassified offense: willful failure to report

imprisonment for up to 90 days, a fine of up to $300, or both

Florida

Fla. Ann. Stat. 39.205(1) and –(2)

1st degree misdemeanor for knowing or willful failure to report or interference with another's reporting attempt

imprisonment for up to 1 year or $1,000 fine

3rd degree felony for knowing failure of household member to report

imprisonment for up to 5 years or $5,000 fine

Georgia

Ga. Ann. Code 19-7-5(h)

Misdemeanor (knowing and willful)

(No reporting exemption for information learned in course of privileged communication)

Hawaii

Haw. Rev. Stat. 350-1.2

Petty misdemeanor (knowing failure to provide information or preventing another from reporting)

Idaho

Idaho Code 16-1605(4)

Misdemeanor (state of mind not specified)

(Members of clergy exempt if information learned during confession or other privileged communication.)

Illinois

Ill. Comp. Stat. Ch. 325, 5/4.02; 5/4

Class A misdemeanor (willful) for 1st offense; Class 4 felony for subsequent offense

Class 4 felony if person acted as part of scheme to protect abuser from arrest or prosecution; Class 3 felony for subsequent offense (regardless of whether subsequent offenses involve same facts or victim)

Indiana

Ind. Ann. Code 31-33-22-1

Class B misdemeanor (knowing)

Class B misdemeanor if staff member of a medical or other institution, school, facility, or agency is required to make report to entity's head or designee and knowingly fails to do so (penalty is in addition to penalty above )

Iowa

Iowa Ann. Stat. 232.75(1) and (2)

Simple misdemeanor (knowing and willful)

Kansas

Kan. Ann. Stat. 38-2223(e)

Class B misdemeanor (knowing and willful); no defense that someone else reported the incident

Class B misdemeanor (intentionally preventing or interfering with filing of another's mandated report)

Kentucky

Ky. Rev. Stat. 620-990(1)

Class B misdemeanor (intentional)

Class A misdemeanor (2nd offense)

Class D felony (subsequent offense)

Louisiana

La. Children's Code 609; Rev. Stat. 14:403(A)(1)

Misdemeanor (knowing and willful failure to report or obstructing another's reporting efforts)

imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine of up to $500, or both

Maine

Me. Rev. Stat. Tit. 22, 4009

Civil violation

● forfeiture of up to $500

Maryland

No statute found

Massachusetts

M.GL.A. Ch. 119, 51A

Fine of up to $1,000 (willful)

If reporter knows of abuse involving serious bodily injury or death, willful failure to report is punishable by imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine of up to $2,000, or both (1st offense); subsequent offenses: imprisonment for up to 2 years, a fine of up to $2,000, or both

In lieu of report to state, mandated hospital, school, and public or private facility reporters can alternatively notify facility head or designee, who then becomes responsible for reporting

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws 7222.633(1) and (2)

Misdemeanor (state of mind not specified)

● imprisonment for up to 93 days, a fine of up to $500, or both

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. Ann. 626.556, Sub. 6

Misdemeanor for failing to report abuse occurring within past 3 years

Gross misdemeanor when perpetrator has engaged in physical or sexual abuse of more than 1 child during the past 10 years

Mississippi

Miss. Ann. Code 43-21-353(7)

Unclassified offense (willful)

● imprisonment for up to 1 year, a fine of up to $5,000, or both

Missouri

Mo. Ann. Stat. 210.165(1)

Class A misdemeanor (state of mind not specified)

Montana

Mont. Ann. Code 41-3-207

Misdemeanor (purposely or knowingly failing to report or knowingly preventing someone else from doing so)

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-171

Class III misdemeanor (willful)

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. 432B.240

Misdemeanor (knowing and willful)

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. 169-C:39

Misdemeanor (knowing)

New Jersey

N.J. Ann. Stat. 9:6-8.14

Disorderly person (knowing)

New Mexico

N.M. Ann. Stat. 32A-4-3(F)

Misdemeanor

● imprisonment for up to 1 year, fine of up to $1,000, or both

New York

N.Y. Soc. Serv. Laws 420

Class A misdemeanor

North Carolina

Statute not found

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code 50-25.1-13

Class B misdemeanor (willful)

Ohio

Ohio Rev. Stat. 2151.99

4th degree misdemeanor

1st degree misdemeanor if abused or threatened child is under direct care or supervision of person who is supervised by perpetrator

1st degree misdemeanor if designated-member of clergy fails to report, knowing that perpetrator is or was cleric or other person associated with same church)

Oklahoma

Okla. Ann. Stat. Tit. 10A, 1-2-101(c)

Misdemeanor (knowing and willful failure to report or interfering with child abuse investigation)

(Privileged communications or contractual confidentiality agreements not exempt)

Oregon

Ore. Rev. Stat 419B.101(3)

Class A violation (state of mind not specified)

Pennsylvania

Penna. Cons. Stat. Ch. 23, 6319

3rd degree misdemeanor (1st offense – willful)

2nd degree misdemeanor (subsequent offenses)

Puerto Rico

No statute found

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws 40-11-6.1

Misdemeanor (knowing failure to report or preventing reasonable person from doing so

● imprisonment for up to 1 year, a fine of up to $500, or both

South Carolina

S.C. Ann. Code 63-7-410

Misdemeanor (knowing failure to report or threatening a witness)

South Dakota

S. D. Ann. Stat. 26-8A-3, -4, -6, and -7

Class 1 misdemeanor (intentional)

Tennessee

Tenn. Ann. Code 37-1-412

Class A misdemeanor (knowing)

Texas

Tex. Fam. Code 261.109

Class A misdemeanor (knowing)

State jail felony if victim has mental retardation and reporter knew victim was seriously injured

Utah

Utah Ann. Code 62A-4a-411

Class B misdemeanor (willful)

Vermont

Vt. Ann. Stat. Tit. 33 4913(f)

Fine of up to $500

If failure to report was in order to conceal child abuse, imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both

Virginia

Va. Ann. Code 63.2-1509(D)

Failure to report promptly

● Fine of up to $500 for first offense

● Fine between $100 and $1,000 for subsequent offenses

In lieu of report to child welfare agency, teachers and other professionals working in schools or other specified facilities can report to the person in charge, who must then immediately report. (Members of clergy are exempted if information was obtained during confidential or privileged communication.)

Washington

Wa. Rev. Code 26.44.060(4); 9A.20.021

Gross misdemeanor (knowing)

● imprisonment for up to 1 year, a fine of up to $5,000, or both

West Virginia

W. Va. Ann. Code 49-6A-8

Misdemeanor (knowing failure to report or preventing a reasonable from doing so)

● imprisonment for up to 10 days, a fine of up to $100, or both

Wisconsin

Wisc. Ann. Stat. 48.981(6)

Unclassified offense

● imprisonment for up to 6 months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both

Wyoming

Statute not found

Source: Penalties for Failure to Report and False Reporting of Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws. Welfare Information Gateway, (U.S. Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (Dec. 2009)) http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/reportall.pdf (updated through 2011 using Westlaw).

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