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The Colorado Law Compelling Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse

First Let’s Look at the Comparable Federal Law on Child Abuse Prevention

The Mondale Act of 1974, also known as the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), compelled the states to enact child abuse laws by threatening to withhold funding should the provisions of the federal code not be incorporated into state law.

While CAPTA has been beneficial to the plight of abused children, it has also been used by those with unseemly agendas. The Act contains provisions for immunity for individuals making good faith reports of suspected or known instances of child abuse. Anyone failing to report any incident of suspected child abuse can be convicted of a felony and have their professional license suspended. 42 U.S.C.A. 5106a. The system encourages officials and experts to err on the side of reporting cases of potential child abuse.

CAPTA mandates “minimum definitions” for child abuse and sexual abuse.

Child abuse or neglect is any recent act or failure to act: Resulting in imminent risk of serious harm, death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation of a child (usually a person under the age of 18, but a younger age may be specified in cases not involving sexual abuse) By a parent or caretaker who is responsible for the child’s welfare

Sexual abuse is defined as: Employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or any simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct; or rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.

Many states have modeled their laws after the Model Child Protection Act. Colorado is one of them.

Colorado’s Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Law

Here is a summary of the law CRS 19-3-301, et seq., and 19-1-103

What Constitutes Abuse Act or omission:

Where child subject to sexual assault, molestation, exploitation, emotional abuse or prostitution; where child is in need of food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision because parent or guardian fails to do so; where child exhibits evidence of skin bruising, bleeding, malnutrition, burns, fractures, etc.; or circumstances indicate a condition that may not be the product of an accidental occurrence

Mandatory Reporting Required By:

Physicians, child health associate, dentist, chiropractor, nurse, hospital personnel, school employee, social worker, mental health professional, veterinarian, peace officer, pharmacist, psychologist, fireman, victim’s advocate, commercial film and photographic print processor, clergyman

Basis of Report of Abuse/neglect:

Reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child is subject to circumstances or conditions which would reasonably result in abuse or neglect

To Whom Reported:

Country or district department of social services or local law enforcement agency

Penalty for Failure to Report or False Reporting Willful violation: Class 3 misdemeanor plus liability for proximately caused damages

Here is the actual Colorado Law: CRS § 19-3-304

19-3-304. Persons required to report child abuse or neglect.

(1) (a) Except as otherwise provided by section 19-3-307, sections 25-1-122 (4) (d) and 25-4-1404 (1) (d), C.R.S., and paragraph (b) of this subsection (1), any person specified in subsection (2) of this section 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 or local law enforcement agency.

(b) The reporting requirement described in paragraph (a) of this subsection (1) shall not apply if the person who is otherwise required to report does not:

(I) Learn of the suspected abuse or neglect until after the alleged victim of the suspected abuse or neglect is eighteen years of age or older; and

(II) Have reasonable cause to know or suspect that the perpetrator of the suspected abuse or neglect:

(A) Has subjected any other child currently under eighteen years of age to abuse or neglect or to circumstances or conditions that would likely result in abuse or neglect; or

(B) Is currently in a position of trust, as defined in section 18-3-401 (3.5), C.R.S., with regard to any child currently under eighteen years of age.

(2) Persons required to report such abuse or neglect or circumstances or conditions shall include any:

(a) Physician or surgeon, including a physician in training;

(b) Child health associate;

(c) Medical examiner or coroner;

(d) Dentist;

(e) Osteopath;

(f) Optometrist;

(g) Chiropractor;

(h) Podiatrist;

(i) Registered nurse or licensed practical nurse;

(j) Hospital personnel engaged in the admission, care, or treatment of patients;

(k) Christian science practitioner;

(l) Public or private school official or employee;

(m) Social worker or worker in any facility or agency that is licensed or certified pursuant to part 1 of article 6 of title 26, C.R.S.;

(n) Mental health professional;

(o) Dental hygienist;

(p) Psychologist;

(q) Physical therapist;

(r) Veterinarian;

(s) Peace officer as described in section 16-2.5-101, C.R.S.;

(t) Pharmacist;

(u) Commercial film and photographic print processor as provided in subsection (2.5) of this section;

(v) Firefighter as defined in section 18-3-201 (1), C.R.S.;

(w) Victim’s advocate, as defined in section 13-90-107 (1) (k) (II), C.R.S.;

(x) Licensed professional counselors;

(y) Licensed marriage and family therapists;

(z) Unlicensed psychotherapists;

(aa) (I) Clergy member. (II) The provisions of this paragraph (aa) shall not apply to a person who acquires reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect during a communication about which the person may not be examined as a witness pursuant to section 13-90-107 (1) (c), C.R.S., unless the person also acquires such reasonable cause from a source other than such a communication. (III) For purposes of this paragraph (aa), unless the context otherwise requires, “clergy member” means a priest, rabbi, duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church, member of a religious order, or recognized leader of any religious body.

(bb) Registered dietitian who holds a certificate through the commission on dietetic registration and who is otherwise prohibited by 7 CFR 246.26 from making a report absent a state law requiring the release of this information;

(cc) Worker in the state department of human services;

(dd) Juvenile parole and probation officers;

(ee) Child and family investigators, as described in section 14-10-116.5, C.R.S.;

(ff) Officers and agents of the state bureau of animal protection, and animal control officers;

(gg) The child protection ombudsman as created in article 3.3 of this title.

(2.5) Any commercial film and photographic print processor who has knowledge of or observes, within the scope of his or her professional capacity or employment, any film, photograph, video tape, negative, or slide depicting a child engaged in an act of sexual conduct shall report such fact to a local law enforcement agency immediately or as soon as practically possible by telephone and shall prepare and send a written report of it with a copy of the film, photograph, video tape, negative, or slide attached within thirty-six hours of receiving the information concerning the incident.

(3) In addition to those persons specifically required by this section to report known or suspected child abuse or neglect and circumstances or conditions which might reasonably result in abuse or neglect, any other person may report known or suspected child abuse or neglect and circumstances or conditions which might reasonably result in child abuse or neglect to the local law enforcement agency or the county department.

(3.5) No person, including a person specified in subsection (1) of this section, shall knowingly make a false report of abuse or neglect to a county department or local law enforcement agency.

(4) Any person who willfully violates the provisions of subsection (1) of this section or who violates the provisions of subsection (3.5) of this section:

(a) Commits a class 3 misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-501, C.R.S.;

False Leads or Coaching Leading to False Reports of Child Abuse in Colorado

There are many reasons for a child reporting that they have been abused — this is addressd in other articles.. However clearly the use of leading questions, repeated questioning, social conformity, family dysfunction, and personality disorders can contribute to the development of false memories. Moreover, the repeating of a falsity can make a child eventually believe a lie is the truth.

Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Laws add fuel to the fire of falsely developed allegations of child abuse by adding a semblance of legitimacy to a false allegation of child abuse. The report can be anonymous and the reporter is immunized from prosecution. The penalty is imposed only if the report is not made.

If you are the victim of a false report of child abuse in Colorado- please contact our firm to discuss the case.

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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
The Edward Building
8400 East Prentice Avenue - Suite 420
Greenwood Village, Colorado 80111
Primary Web Site:  http://www.HMichaelSteinberg.com
Colorado Criminal Law Blog:  www.Colorado-Criminal-Lawyer-Online.com
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