Washington Child Abuse Laws

Child abuse is a serious crime in all 50 states, including Washington. In Washington, child abuse, neglect, and abandonment fall under the general chapter of "criminal mistreatment" in the state's criminal code. It's important to note, however, that child abuse is also addressed in the state's domestic relations title. As in most other states, Washington also has mandatory reporting requirements that apply to a variety of professionals, including law enforcement and adults with regular access to children, such as teachers and pediatricians.

Terms Related to Washington Child Abuse Laws

The criminal mistreatment of children is divided into degrees depending on the degree of harm as well as the adult's actions. To better understand the Washington child abuse laws, it's helpful to define some key terms:

  • Basic Necessities of Life: shelter, food, water, clothing, and necessary health care.
  • Bodily Injury: physical pain or injury, illness, or impairment of physical condition.
  • Substantial Bodily Harm: injury that involves a fracture, or substantial but temporary disfigurement, loss or impairment of an organ or body part.
  • Great Bodily Harm: injury that creates a high probability of death, causes serious permanent disfigurement, or permanent or prolonged loss or impairment of an organ or body part.

It's also important to note that Washington's criminal mistreatment laws apply to the parent of a child, a person who's responsible for the physical custody of a child, and a person who's employed to provide a child with the basic necessities of life.

Washington Child Abuse Laws Overview

When you have a legal question, you're usually looking for a quick and easy answer. Unfortunately, laws are usually written in "legalese," which can take a while to understand. That's why it can be very helpful to read a summary of the law without the legal jargon. The following chart provides links to relevant statutes and summarizes Washington's laws relating to the mistreatment of children.

Statute(s)

Washington Revised Code:

Degrees of Criminal Mistreatment

Criminal Mistreatment in the First Degree: recklessly causing great bodily harm to a child by withholding basic necessities of life.

Criminal Mistreatment in the Second Degree: recklessly (1) creating a substantial and imminent risk of great bodily harm or death, or (2) causing substantial bodily harm by withholding basic necessities of life.

Criminal Mistreatment in the Third Degree: with criminal negligence either (1) creating a substantial and imminent risk of substantial bodily harm by withholding basic necessities of life, or (2) causing substantial bodily harm by withholding basic necessities of life.

Criminal Mistreatment in the Fourth Degree: with criminal negligence either (1) creating a substantial and imminent risk of bodily injury by withholding basic necessities of life, or (2) causing bodily injury or extreme emotional distress by withholding basic necessities of life.

Charges and Penalties

Criminal Mistreatment in the First Degree is a class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.

Criminal Mistreatment in the Second Degree is a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Criminal Mistreatment in the Third Degree is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in county jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Criminal Mistreatment in the Fourth Degree is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Mandatory Reporting

While it's a good idea for anyone who believes that a child has been abused or neglected to report it, there are certain people that are legally required to do so. Just a few examples of mandatory reporters are doctors, school personnel, law enforcement officers, and therapists.

Child abuse or neglect can be reported to the state's child abuse hotline at 1-866-END-HARM (1-866-363-4276), which will connect the caller to the correct local office.

Failure of a mandatory reporter to report child abuse or neglect is a gross misdemeanor.

Related Statute(s)

Washington Revised Code:

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Washington Child Abuse Laws: Related Resources

Facing Child Abuse Charges in Washington? Get Professional Legal Help

Child abuse is a serious crime that can have a lasting impact on everyone involved, although sometimes the line between discipline and abuse isn't always that clear. If you're facing child abuse or neglect charges in Washington, it's a good idea to reach out to a local criminal defense attorney to discuss your case and learn about how Washington child abuse laws apply to your particular situation.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.