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Missouri Child Abuse Laws

Child abuse is a serious crime in all 50 states, sometimes charged as child endangerment and/or assault and battery. Broadly defined as any type of cruelty visited upon a child, child abuse includes physical battery, mental or emotional abuse, neglect, exploitation, and sexual abuse. Most states, including Missouri, define the crime as an act or failure to act that:

  1. Results in imminent risk or serious harm to a child's health and welfare due to physical, emotional, or sexual abuse;
  2. Affects a child (under the age of 18 in Missouri);
  3. By a parent or caregiver who is responsible for the child's welfare.

Missouri law defines abuse as "the infliction of physical, sexual, or mental injury against a child by any person eighteen years of age of older." The state defines neglect as "the failure to provide, by those responsible for the care, custody, and control of a child under the age of eighteen years, the care reasonable and necessary to maintain the physical and mental health of the child."

Missouri child abuse laws charge the crime as a felony with no chance of probation or parole until at least one year of prison time has been served. If a child dies as a result of injuries sustained at the hands of an abuser, the defendant may face life in prison. Corporal punishment ("including spanking administered in a reasonable manner) is not considered child abuse.

In Missouri, adults in certain professions are required to report any signs or knowledge of child abuse. These mandatory reporters include physicians, nurses, social workers, teachers, police officers, and other authority figures.

To report an instance (or suspected instance) of child abuse or neglect, contact the Missouri Department of Social Services at 1-800-392-3738. Mandated reporters are required by state law to identify themselves when making a report.

The following chart highlights the basics of Missouri child abuse laws. See FindLaw's Crimes Against Children and Child Abuse sections to learn more.

Code Section 568.060, et seq.
What Constitutes Abuse Any physical injury, sexual abuse, emotional abuse inflicted on child other than by accidental means by caregiver (spanking in a reasonable manner not included).
Charges and Sentences Class C felony - up to 7 years in prison (but a minimum of one year); if abuse results in serious emotional or physical injury, Class B felony - between 5 and 15 years in prison; if abuse results in death of the child, Class A felony - 10 years to life in prison.
Mandatory Reporting Required By Physician, medical examiner, dentist, chiropractor, coroner, optometrist, nurse, hospital or clinic personnel, any other health practitioner, psychologist, social worker, mental health professional, day care center worker, juvenile officer, probation or parole officer, teacher, school official, law enforcement officer, minister
Basis of Report of Abuse/neglect Reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect or observes such conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect
To Whom Reported Missouri Division of Family Services
Penalty for Failure to Report or False Reporting Class A misdemeanor

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Missouri criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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