H. Michael Steinberg has over 32 years experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
Published on:

Joe Paterno, Penn State and The Colorado Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse Laws

I am sure by this time – you have read about the failure of individuals in the Penn State hierarchy to report suspected child abuse allegedly occurring on the Penn State campus. You may be wondering what Colorado Law requires in the way of Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse.

Under most state laws – there is NO REQUIREMENT that an individual report a crime – UNDER ANY AND ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. This general rule is the case with certain critical excpetions.

In Colorado certain legal relationships require – upon suspecting an act of child abuse – that certain individuals report crimes against children.

I have written an article:

Here is the link:

Colorado Law Compelling Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse

….that addresses who these mandatory reporters are… They are such professionals as therapists, police, teachers, nurses, doctors – and others who have a legal duty to protect children.

Here is a complete list of Colorado Mandatory Reporters
physician or surgeon, including a physician in training;
. child health associate;
. medical examiner or coroner;
. dentist;
. osteopath;
. optometrist;
. chiropractor;
. chiropodist or podiatrist;
. registered nurse or licensed practical nurse;
. hospital personnel engaged in the admission, care or treatment of patients;
. Christian science practitioner;
. public or private school official or employee;
. social worker or worker in a family care home or child care center;
. mental health professional;
. dental hygienist;
. psychologist; physical therapist;
. veterinarian;
. peace officer;
. pharmacist;
. commercial film and photographic print processor;
. firefighter;
. victim’s advocate;
. licensed professional counselor;
. licensed marriage and family therapists;
. unlicensed psychotherapists;
. clergy member;
. registered dietician;
. worker in the Colorado Department of Human Services;
. juvenile parole and probation officers;
. child and family investigators;
. officers and agents of the state bureau of animal protection, and animal control officers.

The failure to report a suspected act of child abuse is a crime in Colorado — but only a misdemeanor.

I end with the question — just what is child abuse?

Here is the law:

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 19-1-103 (West, WESTLAW through Colo. 2003 Legis. Serv., Ch. 91)

‘Abuse’ or ‘child abuse or neglect’ means an act or omission in one of the following categories that threatens the health or welfare of a child:

Any case in which a child exhibits evidence of skin bruising, bleeding, malnutrition, failure to thrive, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma, soft tissue swelling, or death and either such condition or death is not justifiably explained; the history given concerning such condition is at variance with the degree or type of such condition or death; or the circumstances indicate that such condition may not be the product of an accidental occurrence.

Any case in which a child is subjected to sexual assault or molestation, sexual exploitation, or prostitution;

Any case in which a child is a child in need of services because the child’s parents, legal guardian, or custodian fails to take the same actions to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision that a prudent parent would take.

Any case in which a child is subjected to emotional abuse. As used in this subparagraph, ’emotional abuse’ means an identifiable and substantial impairment of the child’s intellectual or psychological functioning or development or a substantial risk of impairment of the child’s intellectual or psychological functioning or development.

Any act or omission described in Section 19-3-102;

Any case in which, in the presence of a child, or on the premises where a child is found, or where a child resides, a controlled substance is manufactured.

‘Intrafamilial abuse’ means any case of abuse that occurs within a family context by a child’s parent, stepparent, guardian, legal custodian, or relative, by a spousal equivalent, or by any other person who resides in the child’s home or who is regularly in the child’s home for the purpose of exercising authority over or care for the child; except that ‘intrafamilial abuse’ shall not include abuse by a person who is regularly in the child’s home for the purpose of rendering care for the child if such person is paid for rendering care and is not related to the child.

‘Responsible person’ means a child’s parent, legal guardian, or custodian, or any other person responsible for the child’s health and welfare.

‘Sexual conduct’ means any of the following:

Sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex or between humans and animals;

Penetration of the vagina or rectum by any object;

Masturbation;

Sexual sadomasochistic abuse.

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 19-3-102 (West Supp. 1998)

‘Neglected’ or ‘dependent’ a child is neglected or dependent if:

A parent, guardian, or legal custodian has abandoned the child or has subjected him or her to mistreatment or abuse or a parent, guardian, or legal custodian has suffered or allowed another to mistreat or abuse the child without taking lawful means to stop such mistreatment or abuse and prevent it from recurring;

The child lacks proper parental care through the actions or omissions of the parent, guardian, or legal custodian;

The child’s environment is injurious to his or her welfare;

A parent, guardian, or legal custodian fails or refuses to provide the child with proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical care, or any other care necessary for his or her health, guidance, or well-being;

The child is homeless, without proper care, or not domiciled with his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian through no fault of such parent, guardian, or legal custodian;

The child has run away from home or is otherwise beyon the control of his or her parent, guardian or legal custodian.

A child is neglected or dependent if:

A parent, guardian, or legal custodian has subjected another child or children to an identifiable pattern of habitual abuse; and
Such parent, guardian, or legal custodian has been the respondent in another proceeding under this article in which a court has adjudicated another child to be neglected or dependent based upon allegations of sexual or physical abuse, or a court of competent jurisdiction has determined that such parent’s, guardian’s, or legal custodian’s abuse or neglect has caused the death of another child; and
The pattern of habitual abuse described above and the type of abuse pose a current threat to the child.

EXCEPTIONS
Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 19-1-103(1)(b) (West, WESTLAW through End of 2001 1st Reg. Sess.)

In all cases, those investigating reports of child abuse shall take into account accepted child-rearing practices of the culture in which the child participates, including, but not limited to, accepted work-related practices of agricultural communities.

Nothing in this subsection shall refer to acts that could be construed to be a reasonable exercise of parental discipline or to acts reasonably necessary to subdue a child being taken into custody that are performed by a peace officer acting in good faith performance of the officer’s duties.

Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 19-3-103 (West Supp. 1998)

No child who in lieu of medical treatment is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with a recognized method of religious healing shall, for that reason alone, be considered to have been neglected or dependent within the purview of this article. However, the religious rights of a parent, guardian, or legal custodian shall not limit the access of a child to medical care in a life-threatening situation or when the condition will result in serious disability. In order to make a determination as to whether the child is in a life-threatening situation or that the child’s condition will result in serious disability, the court may order a medical evaluation of the child. If the court determines, on the basis of any relevant evidence before the court, including the medical evaluation ordered pursuant to this section, that the child is in a life-threatening situation or that the child’s condition will result in serious disability, the court may order that medical treatment be provided for the child. A child whose parent, guardian, or legal custodian inhibits or interferes with the provision of medical treatment in accordance with a court order shall be considered to have been neglected or dependent for the purposes of this article and injured or endangered for the purposes of Section 18-6-401.