Child abuse includes the physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of a minor, as well as child neglect and abandonment. Each state has its own definition of child abuse and neglect, but the offense is generally considered a serious crime in all states. In Virginia, for example, child abuse is classified as a felony. It's important to take note that a parent or guardian will not be considered in violation of Virginia child abuse laws solely based on the act of treating a child by spiritual means that are in line with the beliefs and practices of a recognized church or religion.
Mandatory Reporting and Making a False Report
Like many other states, Virginia also has mandatory reporting laws. People classified as mandatory reporters are required to report the suspected child abuse and neglect to a local department or to the Virginia Department of Social Services. Alternatively, it's illegal for anyone who's 14 or older to knowingly make a false report of child abuse or neglect. Such a report is a Class 1 misdemeanor for the first offense and a Class 6 felony for any subsequent offenses.
Virginia Child Abuse Laws at a Glance
When researching a legal question, it's important to read the actual law. However, it can also be helpful to look at a summary in easy to read language to better understand the statute. The following chart provides an overview of Virginia child abuse laws, including the requirements for mandatory reporters. You can also find links to relevant statutes in the chart.
||Virginia Code Section 18.2-371.1 (Abuse and Neglect of Children)
|What Constitutes Child Abuse?
It's considered child abuse for any parent, guardian, or other individual responsible for the care of a child to act (or fail to act) in a way that causes serious injury to the child. Serious injuries include (but aren't limited to):
- Severe burns or cuts;
- Forcing a child to ingest a dangerous substance; and
- Internal injuries that are life-threatening.
|Charges and Penalties
Child abuse is a Class 4 felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and/or a fine not exceeding $100,000.
Certain people who, in their official or professional capacity, have reason to suspect that a child is abused or neglected are required to report the abuse or neglect immediately unless they know that the matter has already been reported. Mandatory reporters include* social workers, probation officers, teachers, doctors, police officers, and mental health professionals.
*Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of mandatory reporters. For a complete list please see Section 63.2-1509.
|Penalty for Failure to Report
Failure to report within 24 hours of having reason to believe a child has been abused or neglected is punished as follows:
- First failure: fine not exceeding $500
- Subsequent failures: fine no less than $1,000
- If the abuse involves certain sex crimes, failure to report is a Class 1 misdemeanor
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.
Virginia Child Abuse Laws: Related Resources
For additional information and resources related to this topic, please visit the links below.
Accused of Child Abuse in Virginia? Get Legal Help
Even accusations of child abuse and neglect can have a negative impact on your life, including your rights as a parent. If you've been accused of violating Virginia child abuse laws, it's in your best interest to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney near you today.