What is the Duty to Report?
A.R.S. § 13-3620 defines a duty among certain individuals to report child abuse. Failure to report the abuse may under certain circumstances constitute a crime, which may be either a class 1 misdemeanor or a class 6 felony. This duty does not extend to everybody, but only to a select group of people who have some level of responsibility for caring for the child in question.
A.R.S. § 13-3620 Defined
Under ARS 13-3620, “any person” who reasonably believes that a minor is or has been the victim of physical injury, abuse, child abuse, a reportable offense or neglect that appears to have been inflicted on the minor by other than accidental means or that is not explained by the available medical history as being accidental in nature or who reasonably believes there has been a denial or deprivation of necessary medical treatment or surgical care or nourishment with the intent to cause or allow the death of an infant shall immediately report or cause reports to be made of this information to a peace officer or to the department of child safety.
“Any person” under this law does not, actually apply to everybody. Rather, the people who have a duty to report include:
- Physicians and other healthcare service providers (nurses, dentists, osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, psychologists, social workers, etc.) who become suspicious and develop reasonable belief over the course of treating a child
- Child safety workers, peace officers, and child welfare investigators
- A parent, guardian or stepparent
- Teachers, school staff, and domestic violence victim advocates
- Any other person who is responsible for taking care of the minor
Unless an individual is specifically listed in ARS 13-3620 as having a duty to report, then the person is not required to report suspected abuse to law enforcement–although they still may do so.
A violation of ARS 13-3620 is a class 1 misdemeanor, unless it involves a “reportable offense,” in which case the violation becomes a class 6 felony.
A “reportable offense” means:
- Any sex crime
- Surreptitious photographing, videotaping, filming or digitally recording or viewing a minor
- Child sex trafficking
- Incest pursuant
- Unlawful mutilation
If child abuse is observed, then the report to law enforcement must be made immediately by either phone or electronically. The report must identify the child, the parents, their addresses, the child’s age, and the nature of the abuse.
How is Abuse defined in Arizona?
ARS 8-201 provides the definition for “child abuse” in Arizona. It includes:
- Infliction or allowing of physical injury
- Impairment of bodily function
- Inflicting or allowing another person to cause serious emotional damage
- Sexual abuse
- Sexual conduct with a minor
- Sexual exploitation of a minor
Penalties for Failure to Report Abuse
The penalties for a conviction under ARS 13-2505 depend on whether it is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor or a class 6 felony.
Penalties for a class 1 misdemeanor
- Up to 6 months’ jail
- Up to $2500 in fines
Penalties for a class 6 felony
- With no prior felonies: probation or .33 to 2 years in prison
- With one prior felony: .75 to 2.75 years in prison
- With two prior felonies: 2.25 to 5.75 years in prison
Defenses to Failure to Report Abuse
- No “reasonable belief”: One of the most common defenses to a charge under ARS 13-2505 is that the person with the obligation to report did not have sufficient evidence to establish “reasonable belief” that abuse was occurring. In other words, this defense involves convincing the judge or jury that the evidence of abuse is insufficient to give the defendant the obligation to report. Remember: it is the State’s job to prove that a crime occurred “beyond a reasonable doubt” which means that if the defendant can show that there is a real possibility that a person in the defendant’s position would not have thought abuse was occurring, then the State has not met it burden of proof to convict. While there might be some evidence the defendant witnesses that could possibly suggest abuse, that evidence might also have been explained by other circumstances.
- No Obligation to Report: ARS 13-3620 does not require everybody who suspects child abuse to report the allegations but only a designated list of people that provide care to the child. If the defendant does not fit into one of these categories, then the case should be dismissed.
How Salwin Law Group Can Help You
If you have been charged with failure to report abuse, an experienced defense attorney can help defend you. We offer free consultation and can discuss your case with you today. Together we can help you get your life back.