In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is Colorado's mandatory child abuse reporting law?
- 2. Who is required to report suspected child abuse?
- 3. What is considered child abuse or neglect?
- 4. What are the reporting procedures?
- 5. What are the penalties for failure to report child abuse?
- 6. What are the penalties for making a false report of child abuse?
- 7. Related Offenses
Any person in a specified position or occupation who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect shall immediately upon receiving such information report or cause a report to be made of such fact to the county department, the local law enforcement agency, or through the child abuse reporting hotline system.
There may be criminal penalties for failing to report abuse, including fines and possible jail time. The individual who fails to report abuse may also be liable for damages. While there are no penalties for making a mistaken report of abuse, making a knowingly false claim of abuse is a misdemeanor.
Individuals in positions of trust, medical professionals, therapists, clergy, and other specified positions are required to report suspected abuse.1 This includes:
- Physician or surgeon
- Child health associate
- Medical examiner or coroner
- Registered nurse or licensed practical nurse
- Hospital personnel engaged in the admission, care, or treatment of patients
- Christian science practitioner
- Public or private school official or employee
- Social worker
- Mental health professional;
- Dental hygienist
- Physical therapist
- Peace officer
- Victim's advocate
- Marriage and family therapists
- Registered psychotherapists
- Clergy member
- Registered dietitian
- Worker in the state department of human services
- Juvenile parole and probation officers
- Child and family investigators
- Animal control officers
- Nutrition educators
- Coach or assistant coach
- Professional counselors
- Emergency medical service providers
Individuals who process film or observe commercial film and photographic print processing may also be required to report suspected activity. This includes observing or knowledge of any film, photograph, videotape, or slide depicting a child engaged in an act of sexual conduct.
Mandatory reporters are required to report abuse, neglect, and suspected abuse or neglect. This includes observations that the child is being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect. Child abuse includes injury to a child's life or health, placing a child in an unreasonably dangerous situation that poses a threat of injury, malnourishment, lack of medical care, cruel punishment, mistreatment, or the accumulation of injuries.2
Examples of suspected child abuse or neglect might include:
- Unusual interactions with parents
- Injuries that have a pattern, straight line, or circle
- Injuries to an area of the body usually protected, including back, genitals, buttocks, or insides of arms or legs
- Unexplained injuries
- Injuries without proper medical care
- Repeated similar injuries
- Soiled clothing
- Self-harm injuries
- Very underweight or overweight
- Poor personal hygiene
- Inappropriate clothing for the weather
The reporting procedures for suspected child abuse or neglect are detailed in C.R.S. 19-3-307. Suspected abuse or neglect shall immediately be reported to the county department, local law enforcement, or through the child abuse reporting hotline. Immediately after reporting the abuse, the individual should file a written report. The county department will then submit a report of confirmed child abuse or neglect within 60 days.
When possible, reports are to include the following information:
- Name, address, age, sex, and race of the child;
- Name and address of person responsible for suspected abuse;
- The nature of the injuries;
- Evidence of previous cases of suspected abuse of the child or his or her siblings;
- The family composition;
- The source of the report, including name, address, and occupation;
- Any action taken; and
- Any other helpful information.3
Failure to report abuse, neglect, or suspected child abuse is a class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado. The penalties include the possibility of up to 6 months in prison and a fine from $50 to $750. Failure to report abuse may also result in liability for any damages caused.4 This includes money damages for any harm or injury done to a child after the individual witnessed abuse or suspected abuse.
In addition to jail time and fines, a conviction for failure to report abuse can have an impact on your personal and professional life. Depending on the situation, your employer may discipline you for failing to report abuse, or terminate you from your position.
No person shall knowingly make a false report of abuse or neglect to a county department, law enforcement agency, or child abuse reporting hotline.5 This applies not only to mandatory reporters, but to anyone who makes a false report of abuse. This does not include good faith reports of suspected child abuse that turn out to be wrong. Making a false report of child abuse is a class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado. Penalties include up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $750.
Failure to report child abuse can result in criminal penalties. However, the related crime of child abuse is a much more serious charge. If a child is seriously injured or dies due to child abuse, the defendant may face felony child abuse charges, with the potential penalty of life in prison.
Harming a child under the age of 16 is child abuse under Colorado law.6 Child abuse also includes putting a child into a potentially harmful situation, even if the child was never physically harmed. Under CRS 18-6-401, penalties for child abuse can range from 3 months in jail to life in prison.
Call us for help...
If you failed to report suspected child abuse, or have been accused of falsely accusing someone of abuse, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group. Our caring Colorado defense attorneys have many years of experience representing clients who have been charged with criminal offenses. We are among the best Colorado criminal defense attorneys to call. Contact us today for a free consultation by phone or in-person or in our Denver law office.
- C.R.S. 19-3-304(2)
- C.R.S. 18-6-401
- C.R.S. 19-3-307
- C.R.S. 19-3-304(4)(b)
- C.R.S. 19-3-304(3.5)
- C.R.S. 18-6-401