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Penalties for Failure to Report and False Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2009
21 pages
This report presents a summary of State laws and statutes for failure to report and false reporting of child abuse and neglect.
Many cases of child abuse and neglect are not reported, even when mandated by law. Therefore, nearly every State and United States territory imposes penalties, often in the form of a fine or imprisonment, on mandatory reporters who fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect as required by law, as well as to prevent malicious or intentional reporting of cases that are not founded. Approximately 47 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands impose penalties on mandatory reporters who knowingly or willfully fail to make a report when they suspect that a child is being abused or neglected. With failure to report classified as a misdemeanor in 39 States and American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Island, in Arizona, Florida, and Minnesota, misdemeanors are upgraded to felonies for failure to report more serious situations, while in Illinois and Guam, second or subsequent violations are classified as felonies. Approximately 28 States carry penalties in their civil child protection laws for any person who willfully or intentionally makes a report of child abuse or neglect that the reporter knows to be false. Twenty States and the Virgin Islands classify false reporting as a misdemeanor or similar charge. This report provides a State-by-State and United States territory summary of laws for failure to report and false reporting of child abuse and neglect.