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Minnesota Child Abuse Laws

Child abuse is considered a serious crime in every state, including Minnesota. State law defines child abuse as an intentional injury (either mental or physical) including deprivation, sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, unreasonable disciplinary methods, or solicitation of children for sex. While parents are free to use corporal punishment on their children, it may not involve kicking, striking with a closed fist, threatening a child with a weapon, or other such acts.

Mandated Reporting in Minnesota

A mandated reporter is an adult -- typically one with regular access to children -- who is required by law to report any credible signs of child abuse to state authorities. Although states specifically designate who is a mandatory reporter, they usually include social workers, teachers, medical professionals, police, and clergy.

In Minnesota, people in certain professions are required to report the maltreatment of minors. Failure to report is usually charged as a misdemeanor. Minnesota provides a very helpful guide for mandated reporters of suspected child abuse.

Summary of Minnesota Child Abuse Laws

Statutes are often written in "legalese" that can take time to interpret and understand. For this reason, it's helpful to read an overview of the statute in plain English. The following table provides an overview of child abuse laws in Minnesota as well as links to relevant statutes.


Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 609. Criminal Code:

Defining the Offense(s)

Malicious Punishment of Child occurs when a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker performs intentional act(s) that evidence unreasonable force or cruel discipline that's excessive.

Neglect or Endangerment occurs when a parent, legal guardian, or caretaker:

  • Willfully deprives a child of necessary food, clothing, shelter, health care, or supervision and the deprivation harms or is likely to substantially harm the child's mental, physical, or emotional health;
  • Knowingly allows the continuing sexual or physical abuse of a child;
  • Intentionally or recklessly causing or allowing a child to be placed in a situation that's likely to substantially harm the child's physical, mental, or emotional health or cause their death; or
  • Knowingly causing or allowing the child to be present where someone is selling or manufacturing a controlled substance.

The charges and penalties for violating Section 609.377 depend on the circumstances of the punishment:

  • Less than substantial bodily harm: gross misdemeanor* punishable by up to 1 year of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $3,000.
  • Child under four years old and there is harm to the head, eyes, neck, or multiple bruises to the body: felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Substantial bodily harm: felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
  • If there's great bodily harm: felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.

There are a variety of penalties for violating Section 609.378, which are heavily dependent on the circumstances of the violation. For the possible penalties, please see the statute.

*See the statute for circumstances that enhance this to a felony.

Related Statute(s)

Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 609. Criminal Code:

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Minnesota Child Abuse Laws: Related Resources

If you'd like more information and resources related to this topic, please visit the links below.

Arrested for Violating Minnesota Child Abuse Laws? Get Legal Help

Sometimes there's a fine line between reasonable punishment and child abuse. Charges of child abuse can have a negative impact on all aspects of your life, including your parental rights. If you've been charged with child abuse in Minnesota, it's in your best interest to get in touch with a local criminal defense attorney to learn about your options.

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