Topic:
SENTENCING; CHILD ABUSE;
Location:
CHILD ABUSE; SENTENCING;

OLR Research Report


November 22, 2000

 

2000-R-1064

SENTENCES FOR CHILD ABUSE

 

By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney

You asked for a state-by-state comparison of the maximum sentences for child abuse crimes. You were especially interested in Ohio's maximum sentences.

SUMMARY

Maximum prison sentences for child abuse vary by state with most states treating it as a felony, punishable by at least one year in prison. Connecticut's maximum punishment of up to one year in prison ranks near the bottom. However, Connecticut does have separate statues for child abandonment and risk of injury or impairing the morals of a minor. These crimes carry stiffer penalties: up to five years and one to 10 years, respectively. Ohio's penalty for child abuse varies greatly depending on the severity of harm. The minimum basic penalty is six to 12 months in prison.

Many states create different levels of abuse depending on the severity of the inflicted harm or the victim's age. Some states also address the failure of a parent or caretaker to protect a child from physical abuse inflicted by another. We have attached OLR Report 97-R-0953 on state laws that penalize parents and caregivers who place their children in a situation where they could be harmed.

The definition of “child abuse” in criminal statutes varies greatly, though all states prohibit the physical maltreatment of children. In some states the offense is a type of assault, while other states create a separate child abuse statute. Where possible, we attempted to focus on state child abuse statutes rather than the more general assault statutes. Most of the child abuse statutes apply to people who have some type of responsibility for a child, be it legal or otherwise. For example, the laws typically cover parents, guardians, and people responsible for a child's care and custody whose conduct is knowing, willful, or reckless.

Table 1 shows child abuse crimes by state, including the District of Columbia, and the penalties for violations.

TABLE 1: CHILD ABUSE CRIMES AND PENALTIES BY STATE

STATES

CRIMES

INCARCERATION

Alabama

26-15-3

Torture, willfully abuse, cruelly beat, or otherwise maltreat a child under age 18.

One to 10 years

Alaska

11.41.220(a)(1) & (3)

(1) Knowingly cause physical injury, which requires medical treatment, to a child under age 10 or (2) recklessly cause such injury to a child between the ages of 10 and 16.

Up to five years

Arizona

13-3623

Under circumstances likely to produce death or serious physical injury, cause a child to suffer physical injury or put him in a situation where he may be injured.

Cause a child to suffer physical injury or put him in a situation where he may be injured but death or serious physical injury is not likely.

Intentional or knowing acts, up to five years; reckless, 3 years; with criminal negligence, 2 years.

Intentional or knowing acts, up to 2 years; reckless, 1 years; with criminal negligence, 1 year

Arkansas

5-13-201

5-13-202

Intentionally or knowingly and without legal justification, cause serious physical injury to someone he knows to be age 12 years or younger.

Intentionally or knowingly and without legal justification, cause physical injury to someone he knows to be 12 years old or younger.

Five to 20 years

Up to six years

California

Pen. Code 273a

Pen. Code 237d

Under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully cause a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain, mental suffering, or place him in a situation where his health is endangered.

Willfully inflicts upon a child any cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or an injury resulting in a traumatic condition.

One year in county jail or up to six years in the state prison

Up to six years in county jail

Colorado

18-6-401

Injure a child under age 16 or engage in a pattern of conduct that results in maltreatment, lack or proper medical care, cruel punishment, mistreatment, or an accumulation of injuries that ultimately causes the child's death or serious bodily injury.

Three months to 12 years depending on the severity of the harm and the offender's state of mind

Connecticut

53-20

Maltreat, torture, overwork, cruelly or unlawfully punish, or willfully or negligently deprive a child under age 16 of necessary food, clothing, or shelter.

Up to one year

Delaware

11-1102

(1) Knowingly act in a manner likely to physically, mentally, or morally injure a child under age 18 or (2) neglect him.

If the child (1) dies, up to five years; (2) suffers serious physical injury, up to two years; (3) is otherwise injured, up to one year

District of Columbia

22-901

Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly injures a child under age 18 by torturing, beating, or otherwise maltreating him.

(1) Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly maltreat a child or engage in conduct that creates a grave risk of bodily injury, or (2) abandon him on any highway, street, field house, outhouse, or other place.

Up to 15 years

Up to 10 years

Florida

827.03

Knowingly and willfully abuse a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.

Willfully torture, maliciously punish, or willfully cage a child or knowingly and willfully abuse a child thereby causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.

Up to 30 years

Up to 30 years

Georgia

16-5-70

Maliciously cause a child under age 18 cruel or excessive physical or mental pain.

Five to 20 years

Hawaii

709-906

Physically abuse a family member.

Up to one year

Idaho

18-1501

(1) Under conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully cause any child to suffer, or inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or (2) injure a child under his care or custody or place him in a situation where he would be in danger.

One to 10 years

Illinois

720 5/12-4.3

Intentionally or knowingly, and without legal justification, cause great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to any child under age 13.

Class X felony*

Indiana

35-42-2-1(a)(2)(B) and (a)(4)

Knowingly and intentionally cause bodily injury to a person under age 14.

A minimum of six years if the injury is serious and one year if it is not

Iowa

726.6

Uses unreasonable force, torture, or cruelty that results in physical injury or substantial mental or emotional harm.

Up to 10 years depending on the severity of harm

Kansas

21-3609

Inflicts cruel and inhuman corporal punishment or intentionally tortures, cruelly beats, or shakes a child under age 18 causing great bodily harm.

Five to 10 years

Kentucky

508.100, .110, and .120

Intentionally, wantonly, or recklessly cause serious physical injury, torture, cruel confinement, or cruel punishment to a child age 12 or younger.

Five to 10 years for intentional acts, one to five years for wanton, and up to one year for reckless.

Louisiana

14:93

Intentionally or with criminal negligence mistreat or neglect any child under 17, and thereby cause unjustifiable pain or suffering.

Up to 10 years

Maine

17-A 554

Cruelly treat a child under age 16 by abusing, neglecting, extremely punishing, or otherwise recklessly endangering his health, safety, or welfare.

Up to three years

Maryland

27 35C

Abuse a child under care, custody, or responsibility. “Abuse” means to physically injure a child by treating him cruelly, inhumanely or maliciously.

Up to 15 years if injury results and up to 30 years if the child dies

Massachusetts

265 13J

It is a crime to commit assault and battery upon a child.

Up to five years for bodily injury and up to 15 years for substantial bodily injury

Michigan

28.331(2)

Cause serious physical or mental harm to a child.

Knowing or intentional acts that cause death, eight to 12 years; serious bodily harm, four to eight; other injury, six to 18 months.

Minnesota

609.255

Intentionally subject a child under age 18 to unreasonable physical confinement or restrain, like tying, locking, caging, or chaining him for a prolonged period and in an excessive, cruel manner, which results in substantial emotional harm.

Intentionally subjects a child to unreasonable force or cruel discipline.

Up to one year for substantial emotional harm and up to five years for substantial physical harm.

Up to one year, but up to five years for substantial bodily harm, and up to 10 years for great bodily harm. If the child is under age four and the injury is bodily harm to the head, eyes, neck, or multiple bruises to the body, up to five years

Mississippi

97-5-39

Sexually abuse, sexually exploit, emotionally abuse, mentally injure, or purposefully injure a child physically.

Intentionally burn, torture, whip, strike, or otherwise abuse or mutilate a child, thereby causing serious bodily harm.

Up to one year

Up to 20 years

Missouri

568.060

Knowingly inflict cruel and inhuman punishment upon a child under age 17.

10 to 30 years if the child dies, five to 15 if he is seriously injured, and up to seven years otherwise

Montana

45-5-201

Purposely or knowingly cause bodily injury to a family member.

Up to one year

Nebraska

28-707

Knowingly, intentionally, or negligently (1) place a minor child in a situation that endangers his life or physical or mental health; (2) deprive him of necessary food, clothing, shelter, or care; or (3) and with cruelty, punish or confine him.

Class IIIA, III, and IB felony depending on the severity of the harm*

Nevada

200.508

Willfully cause a child under age 18 to suffer substantial bodily or mental harm as a result of abuse or neglect. “Abuse or neglect” means intentional physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or negligent treatment or maltreatment resulting in harm or threatened harm to the child's health or welfare.

Two to 20 years

New Hampshire

631:1 and

631:2

Knowingly or recklessly cause serious bodily injury to a child under age 13. Or purposely and knowingly cause him bodily injury.

Up to 15 years

Up to seven years

New Jersey

2C:24-4 and

9:6-3

Abuse or neglect a child under age 16.

Five to 10 years

New Mexico

30-6-1

Knowingly, intentionally, or negligently, and without justifiable cause, (1) places a minor child in a situation that endangers his life or health; (2) tortures him; or (3) and with cruelty, punish or confine him

Up to 18 years if the child suffers great bodily harm otherwise up to five years

New York

Penal Code 120.05

With intent to cause physical injury, recklessly causes serious physical injury to a child under age11 or injures a child under age seven.

Up to one year

North Carolina

14-318.2

Inflict physical injury upon a child, other than accidentally.

Six months to two years depending on severity of harm

North Dakota

41-09-22

Inflict physical or mental injury or fail to provide proper parental care or control, subsistence, or required education.

Up to 10 years if the child is under age six otherwise up to five years

Ohio

2919.22

Do any of the following to a child under age 18: abuse; torture or cruelly abuse; administer corporal punishment or other physical disciplinary measure, or physically restrain in a cruel manner or for a prolonged period, thereby creating a substantial risk of serious physical harm; or repeatedly administer unwarranted discipline when there is substantial risk that the conduct will seriously impair or retard the child's mental health or development.

Basic punishment:

First degree, three to 10 years

Second-degree, two to eight years

Third-degree, two to five years

Fourth-degree, six to 18 months

Fifth-degree, six to 12 months

Oklahoma

10 7115

Willfully or maliciously injure, torture, maim, use unreasonable force upon, sexually abuse, sexually exploit, or otherwise abuse or neglect a child under age 18.

Up to 10 years

Oregon

163.205

Intentionally or knowingly cause physical injury to a dependent person.

Class C felony*

Pennsylvania

18 2701

Attempt to cause or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to a child under 12.

First-degree misdemeanor*

Rhode Island

11-9-5.3

11-5-14.2

Cause a child serious bodily injury or serious physical injury.

Batter a child age 10 or younger, causing him serious bodily injury.

Up to 20 years depending on the severity of the harm

Between 5 and 20 years

South Carolina

16-25-20

Cause physical harm or injury to a household member.

Up to 30 days

South Dakota

26-10-1

Abuse, expose, torture, or cruelly punish a minor in a manner that does not constitute aggravated assault.

Up to 10 years

Tennessee

39-15-401

Knowingly injure or neglect a child under age 18 in a way that adversely affects his health and welfare.

Up to 11 months but if the child is under age six, two-12 years

Texas

22.04

Intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence cause a child serious bodily injury, serious mental deficiency or impairment, or bodily injury.

180 days to 99 years or life depending on the severity of the crime and the offender's state of mind

Utah

76-5-110

Cause a child physical injury, including acts that impair his health or that involve torture or a substantial risk or death.

Class C misdemeanor to a second-degree felony depending on the severity of the harm and the offender's state of mind*

Vermont

13 1304

13 1305

Willfully assault, ill treat, neglect, abandon, or expose a child under age 10 in a manner to cause unnecessary suffering, or to endanger health.

Inflict unnecessary cruelty upon a child or unnecessarily and cruelly fail to provide him with proper food, drink, shelter, protection from the weather, or care.

Up to two years

Up to one year

Virginia

18.2-371.1

Refuse to provide a child with necessary health care or seriously injure him.

One to five years, but if the offender showed a reckless disregard for life, two to 10 years

Washington

9A.36.140

Cause a child under age 13 bodily harm.

Up to five years

West Virginia

61-8D-3

Cause a child bodily injury or serious bodily injury or create a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death.

Bodily injury, one to five years; serious bodily injury, two to 10 years; and substantial risk of bodily injury or death, one to five years

Wisconsin

948.03

Intentionally or recklessly cause a child bodily harm.

Up to 10 years depending on the severity of the harm

Wyoming

6-2-503

Intentionally or recklessly injure a child under age 16.

Up to five years

*Unable to determine the maximum prison sentence.

SN-E:ro