Most of us are familiar with the saying, “spare the rod, spoil the child,” but sometimes, using the rod is harmful to your child and can lead to criminal child abuse charges. In fact, it’s possible to temporarily or permanently lose parental rights to your children if you abuse or neglect them. The following table outlines some important parts of Alabama child abuse laws.
|Alabama Code Title 26, Chapters 14: Reporting of Child Abuse or Neglect, 15: Child Abuse Generally, and 16: Child Abuse & Neglect (Prevention).
|What Constitutes Abuse?
|Child abuse is any harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare through non-accidental physical or mental injury or the sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.
|What Is Prohibited?
|Child abuse is the crime of a parent, guardian, or other responsible person torturing, willfully abusing, cruelly beating, or otherwise willfully maltreating a child under 18. It’s a Class C felony that can be punished by 1 to 10 years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine. The crime is increased to aggravated child abuse for doing on more than one occasion or in violation of a court order, or causing serious physical injury to the child. This is a Class B felony that can be punished by 2-20 years in prison and up to a $30,000 fine.
|Who is Required to Report Child Abuse?
|Basically anyone who comes into regular contact with children, such as teachers, day care workers, cops, social workers, nurses, doctors, chiropractors, dentists, clergy (unless told under privilege such as confession), or anyone else who could help aid or provide medical care to a child is a mandatory reporter in Alabama.
If you’re in one of these professions, your employer may have trainings and procedures on how to report child abuse. Even if your employer doesn’t, you still need to follow the law and report the abuse.
|Basis of Report of Abuse or Neglect
|If you know child abuse or neglect occurred because you were told about by the person or observed it, you must report. In addition, you must report suspected child abuse or neglect. For example, report that you saw suspicious bruises on a child, the child seems oddly scared of anyone in particular, or a child has been missing while others in the family are still around.
|How to Report Child Abuse
|Reporting child abuse in Alabama is as easy as contacting your county Department of Human Resources office and telling them what you saw. You can also call 911 in an emergency. For more information, see the How to Report Child Abuse article.
|Penalty for Failure to Report or False Reporting
|Knowingly failing to report child abuse is a misdemeanor that can be sentenced by up to 6 months in jail or a fine up to $500.
It’s a crime for a parent or guardian to fail to report a missing child with reckless disregard for the safety of the child. This is typically a Class A misdemeanor punished by no more than one year in jail and a fine up to $6,000 fine. However, if the child dies or suffers serious physical injury, it’s a Class C felony.
If you’re facing child abuse charges, you should consult with an experienced local criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and understand your options. You may also need an Alabama family law attorney familiar with the Child Protective Services (CPS) system, if you’re child has been removed from your home due to abuse.
Note: State laws change all the time, you should verify the state laws you are researching by conducting your own research.
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