California’s Mandatory Reporting Law of Child Abuse and Child Neglect

Under California's “mandatory reporting law,” it is a crime if certain professionals do not report instances of actual or suspected child abuse and child neglect (collectively “A&N”).

This law is found within the State's Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA).

Under this statute, “mandatory reporters” must tell of A&N occurrences to:

And, this report must be made within 36 hours of learning, or suspecting of, the abuse and/or neglect.

Examples of child abuse and child neglect under CANRA include:

As to the latter, please note that with the passage of Assembly Bill 1775 in 2014, abuse and neglect now includes the situation where a person downloads or accesses child pornography on the internet.

Some of the mandatory reporters under CANRA are:

  • teachers, school administrators, and teacher assistants or aides.
  • a social worker, probation officer, or parole officer, and
  • a clergy member.

If a professional required to report under CANRA fails to do so, that person will be charged with a misdemeanor offense (as opposed to a California infraction or felony). As such, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

If a person fails to report, and an instance of abuse or neglect leads to death or great bodily injury, the person can be punished with:

  • imprisonment for up to one year in a county jail, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $5,000.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

abused child
Under California's “mandatory reporting law,” it is a crime if certain professionals do not report instances of actual or suspected child abuse and child neglect

1. What is the legal definition of mandatory reporting?

The Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act requires certain professionals to tell of actual or suspected instances of child abuse and child neglect.

A “child,” under this statute, is defined as any person under the age of 18.1

Professionals required to report under CANRA are referred to as “mandatory reporters.” And, they must detail A&N cases to:

  • any police department or sheriff's department2, and
  • social services agencies.3

Reports must be made within 36 hours of learning, or suspecting of, the abuse or neglect.4

A report of A&N shall include such information as:

  • the name and contact information of the reporter,
  • the title that makes the person a mandatory reporter, and
  • the information that gave rise to the report.

2. Who must report under CANRA?

The statute lists over 50 different professionals that are required to report of instances of actual or suspected child abuse and/or neglect. Some of these professionals include:

  • a teacher,
  • an instructional aide,
  • a teacher's aide or teacher's assistant employed by a public or private school,
  • a classified employee of a public school
  • an administrator or employee of a public or private youth center, youth recreation program or youth organization,
  • a Head Start program teacher,
  • a public assistance worker,
  • an employee of a child care institution,
  • a social worker, probation officer, or parole officer,
  • an employee of a school district police or security department,
  • a police officer,
  • a firefighter, except for volunteer firefighters,
  • a physician and surgeon, psychiatrist, psychologist, dentist, resident, intern, chiropractor, and marriage and family therapist,
  • a child visitation monitor, and
  • a clergy member, including a priest, minister, rabbi, and religious practitioner.5
sad young boy
The intent and purpose of the statute is to protect children from abuse and neglect.

3. What is the purpose of CANRA?

The intent and purpose of the statute is to protect children from abuse and neglect. It is also to encourage all parties involved in an investigation of A&N to consider:

  • the needs of the child victim, and
  • any psychological harm that a child has suffered.6

4. What is “child abuse” and “child neglect?”

Please note that “child abuse” and “child neglect” are defined both:

  • under CANRA, and
  • within California Penal Code sections.

4.1. Abuse and neglect under CANRA

Child neglect” is legally defined as the negligent treatment or the maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for the child's welfare. The term includes both acts and omissions on the part of the responsible person.7

Child abuse” is legally defined as any form of cruelty to a child's physical, moral or mental well-being.8

Some examples of child abuse and/or neglect under CANRA include:

  • child sexual abuse,
  • willful harming or injuring of a child,
  • production of child pornography,
  • unlawful corporal punishment,
  • physical injury of a child, and
  • death inflicted by other than accidental means.

Please note that in 2014, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1775. This law requires mandated reporters to report to the authorities if they know or suspect that someone has:

  • downloaded,
  • streamed, or
  • accessed,

any child pornography on the internet.9

child duct taped to wall while parent drinks beer
“Child abuse” is legally defined as any form of cruelty to a child's physical, moral or mental well-being.

4.2. Abuse and neglect under California's Penal Code

Per California Penal Code 270 PC, child neglect occurs when the parent of a minor child willfully omits, without lawful excuse, to furnish necessary:

  • clothing,
  • food,
  • shelter,
  • medical attendance, or
  • other remedial care

for his or her child.10

A related section -- California Penal Code 270.1(a) -- makes it a crime for a parent to fail to monitor and enforce a child's school attendance.

A person that commits child neglect under PC 270 is guilty of a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, and
  • a maximum fine of $2,000.11

Per California Penal Code 273(d), child abuse occurs when a defendant imposes physical injury or cruel punishment on a child.12

Examples of child abuse under this section include:

  • slapping a child hard enough to leave a mark,
  • punching a teenage boy for staying out too late, and
  • hitting a child with a belt harder than is reasonable in order to discipline her.

Child abuse, under PC 273(d), is a wobbler offense, meaning it cab be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on:

  • the facts of the case, and
  • the criminal history of the defendant.

As a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $6,000.13

As a felony, the crime is punishable by:

  • two, four, or six years in jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $6,000.14

5. What are the consequences if a person does not report under CANRA?

If a mandatory reporter does not report of an instance of child abuse and/or neglect, that person will be charged with a misdemeanor offense.15 As such, the crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.16

If a person willfully fails to report abuse or neglect, and the instance leads to death or great bodily injury, the person can be punished with:

  • imprisonment for up to one year in a county jail, and/or
  • a maximum fine of $5,000.17

Were you accused of not reporting child abuse or child neglect in California? Call us for help…

california child abuse legal help
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of not reporting child abuse or child neglect per California's Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

For child abuse and child neglect reporting laws in Colorado, please visit our article on Persons Required to Report Child Abuse or Neglect in Colorado CRS 19-3-304.


Legal References:

  1. California Penal Code 11165 PC.

  2. California Penal Code 11165.9 PC.

  3. California Penal Code 11166 PC.

  4. See same.

  5. California Penal Code 11165.7 PC.

  6. California Penal Code 11164(b) PC.

  7. California Penal Code 11165.2 PC.

  8. Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition.

  9. Assembly Bill No. 1775 (AB 1775), Legislative Council's Digest.

  10. California Penal Code 270 PC.

  11. See same.

  12. California Penal Code 273(d) PC.

  13. See same.

  14. California Penal Code 273 PC.

  15. California Penal Code 11166(c) PC.

  16. See same.

  17. California Penal Code 11166.01 PC.

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