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The Serious Consequences of Failure to Report Child Abuse

As a mandated reporter, your duty to report suspicion of child abuse or neglect is an extremely serious one. The majority of states have laws in place to penalize any failure to report child abuse by a mandated reporter. By not doing your duty, you could be putting yourself at risk of a steep fine, time in prison, or further consequences. It's vital to know the consequences of failing to report in your state or territory.

The Frightening Consequences of a Mandated Reporter Failing to Report

Almost Every State Imposes a Penalty
Approximately 49 states impose a penalty for failure to report child abuse for mandated reporters, as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The only state that doesn't specify a penalty for failing to report suspected abuse is Wyoming.

You Could Face a Fine or Prison Time
20 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Northern Mariana Island, and the Virgin Islands specify the penalties for a failure to report. Where specified, the consequences include:

  • Jail terms from 30 days to 5 years
  • Fines from $300 to $10,000
  • A combination of the above

Some states will impose harsher penalties depending on the incident. This includes:

  • California and Maryland: Penalties may be harsher when the failure to report leads to death or bodily injury
  • Louisiana: When the case involves sexual abuse or serious injury
  • Delaware and Virginia: When it’s a second or subsequent failure
  • Vermont: When the reporter willfully fails to report with the intent to conceal
  • West Virginia: When the incident in question is sexual assault
  • American Samoa: You may be held civilly liable for any damages caused by the failure

It's a Misdemeanor
Failing to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor in 40 states, as well as American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. Depending on your state, a misdemeanor conviction may still come with consequences such as a fine or imprisonment.

It May Be a Felony
Furthermore, failure to report child abuse can be upgraded to a felony in several states depending on the severity of the incident.

The following regions may upgrade the charge to a felony:

  • Florida
  • Arizona: A failure to report may be upgraded to a felony in Arizona if it deals with a serious offense such as prostitution or incest
  • Minnesota: In Minnesota, the charge may be upgraded if a child dies because of a lack of medical care
  • Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, and Guam: In these areas, second or subsequent violations can be upgraded

There are Consequences for Institutions, Too
Penalties for a failure to report don't just fall on the mandated reporter, either.

Depending on where you live, an institution may also face serious consequences. These include:

  • Higher Education in Florida: Universities may face a fine of up to $1 million dollars for failure to report or for preventing any person from reporting an instance of abuse committed on the property or an event sponsored by the institution
  • Agencies in Maryland: Agencies participating in a child abuse or neglect investigation that have reason to suspect a health care worker, police officer, or educator has failed to report must file a complaint with the appropriate licensing authority
  • Technology in Missouri: In Missouri, it's a misdemeanor for a film processor, computer technician, or internet provider who fails to report child pornography

Failing to Report Can Bring Severe Consequences

States and territories take a mandated reporter's duty to report child abuse very seriously. A failure to report child abuse can lead to severe consequences including a fine or time in prison for the reporter.

Beyond the legal ramifications of a failure to report, not doing this crucial duty can lead to the injury or even the death of the child. Because of this it's absolutely vital to know what the mandated reporter requirements are in your state.

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