Child abuse is a terrible crime. Even if your family believes in spanking as a punishment, everyone draws the line on corporal punishment of children somewhere. The vast majority of current research suggests that physical discipline is ineffective. In fact, child abuse may even lead to drug abuse later in life.
Child Abuse in West Virginia
While we’ve read in recent years of football players and other celebrities harming their children, the sad reality is it also happens close to home. Whether it’s a 4 year old who was beaten with part of a utility pole in Preston County or a neglected Mercer County boy who died of meningitis, child abuse has occurred all over West Virginia.
Child Abuse Criminal and Mandatory Reporting Laws in West Virginia
The following chart outlines the main child abuse laws in West Virginia.
||West Virginia Code Chapter 49: Child Welfare, Article 6A: Reports of Children Suspected to Be Abused or Neglected and Chapter 61: Crimes, Article 8D: Child Abuse
|What is Child Abuse?
||Child abuse is defined as:
- A parent or guardian knowingly or intentionally inflicting or allowing another to inflict physical, mental, or emotional injury on a child in the home
- Physical injury from excessive corporal punishment
- Negligent treatment
- Sexual abuse or exploitation of a child
- Sale or attempted sale of a child
- Domestic violence
- Any circumstances which harm or threaten the health and welfare of the child
Many child abuse-related actions are crimes with serious criminal penalties in West Virginia, including:
- Death of a child by intentionally physical abuse, both the killer and the parent who allows the abuse can be charged
- Child neglect resulting in death
- Causing or allowing a child to be physical injured
- Child neglect that results in bodily injuries
- Sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, or person in a position of trust with the child
- Female genital mutilation or circumcision
- Giving false information to medical professionals about a child’s injury
||The criminal penalties depend on the crime:
- Death of a child by child abuse is sentenced to 10-40 years in prison
- Death by child neglect can result in 3-15 years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $5,000
- Child physical abuse or neglect resulting in injuries is punished by 1-10 years in prison and a $100 to $5,000 fine, depending on the severity of injuries
- With no prior child abuse convictions, it can be a misdemeanor with as little as 30 days in jail and being required to complete parenting classes, drug treatment, or other services
- Child sexual abuse is 5 to 20 years in prison and a fine of $500 to $10,000 depending on the specifics
- A person authorizing sexual abuse of a child under 16 can get 1 to 5 years in prison
- Lying to health care providers about a child’s injuries could get you a $100 to $1,000 fine and at most one year in jail
You could also have your child removed from your home to keep the child safe.
||Many different professionals must make reports of any suspected or observed child abuse or neglect, including:
- Medical, dental, or mental health professionals
- Religious healers or Christian Science practitioners
- School and child care teachers or staff
- Social workers
- EMTs, cops, judges, magistrates, and juvenile justice employees
- Youth camp staff, coaches, or volunteers at kids’ organizations
It’s also mandatory upon everyone over 18 to report suspected or observed sexual abuse to police or DHS within 48 hours.
|Basis of Report
||Reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or neglected or observes a child subjected to conditions likely to result in abuse or neglect.
|How to Report
||You can call the Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline at 1-800-352-6513 anytime to report abuse. The state agency responsible for investigating reports is the Department of Health & Human Resources.
|Penalty for Failure to Report
||Failure to report child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor, punished by to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
If you’ve got questions about the child abuse laws as they related to your situation or CPS has taken your child from your home, you should speak to a West Virginia family law attorney.
However, if you’ve been charged in criminal court with child abuse, you need to talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area. If you can’t afford a lawyer, ask the judge to appoint you a public defender.
Note: State laws change regularly. Contact a lawyer or conduct your own legal research to verify these child abuse laws.
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