Whenever a child’s mental or physical health is at stake, the law takes over and allows police and prosecutors to stop the activity. They are able to carry out criminal prosecutions against defendants with the help of the Department of Child and Family Services, and tips from mandatory reporters. When it comes to criminal law, Utah is one of the strictest on child abuse matters.
The Utah Child Abuse Statutes
The Beehive State addresses child abuse in Section 62A-4a-401, et. seq. of the Utah Code. These statutes define child abuse, describe who must report it and impose penalties. This is an important sector of criminal law that aims to prevent the harmful treatment of children.
Defining Abuse Under Utah Law
Harm is an umbrella term used to describe many different acts against a child. The harm can be of a physical nature or sexual abuse. It can also consist of mental or emotional anguish inflicted by an adult. Furthermore, the term covers acts of neglect which is the failure to perform a parental duty.
There is a standard in place to determine whether a report of suspected abuse is credible. A person reporting child abuse must observe acts or signs of mistreatment. Alternatively, a reporter can demonstrate a reasonable belief that harm is occuring. Once this information is transmitted to authorities, they have the ability to begin an official investigation.
Who Are Mandatory Reporters?
Mandatory reporters are individuals that are required to report child abuse. This duty is imposed upon those who are likely to come into contact with such children. Under Utah law this includes school personnel, health care professionals and other types of officials. This class of individuals is required to make a report when they have reason to believe a child has been subjected to abuse, or the conditions present are likely to result in abuse.
The only exception for the mandatory reporter category concerns members of the clergy. When news of child abuse is presented to a clergy member during the religious practice of confession, no report is required. This exception only applies if the information is transmitted during a confession, and the clergy member has a church obligation to maintain confidentiality. If information is given outside of a confession, a clergy member still has an obligation to report it.
Criminal Law Penalties
The severity of a criminal punishment for child abuse will depend on the act involved. For example, merely failing to report a suspected case of child abuse can be charged as a misdemeanor level offense. Getting convicted of a child abuse offense is likely to be charged as a felony that can result in a lengthy prison sentence. If you are facing this type of case, it is important to be represented by an experienced attorney.
Just because someone is accused of child abuse doesn't mean it is true. The state has the burden to prove these offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. Spencer and Jensen, PLLC can help those fighting child abuse cases with the Division of Child and Family Services, or the criminal court system. Contact the law firm today to speak with an experienced lawyer.