Utah Criminal Code 76-5-109: Child Abuse–Child Abandonment
1. As used in this section:
a) “Child” means a human being who is under 18 years of age.
b) “(i)Child abandonment” means that a parent or legal guardian of a child:
A. intentionally ceases to maintain physical custody of the child;
B. intentionally fails to make reasonable arrangements for the safety, care, and physical custody of the child; and
C. intentionally fails to provide the child with food, shelter, or clothing;
I. manifests an intent to permanently not resume physical custody of the child; or
II. for a period of at least 30 days:
A. intentionally fails to resume physical custody of the child; and
B. fails to manifest a genuine intent to resume physical custody of the child.
I. “Child abandonment” does not include:
II. safe relinquishment of a child pursuant to the provisions of Section 62A-4a-802 ; or
III. giving legal consent to a court order for termination of parental rights:
IV. in a legal adoption proceeding; or
V. in a case where a petition for the termination of parental rights, or the termination of a guardianship, has been filed.
c) “Child abuse” means any offense described in Subsection (2), (3), or (4) or in Section 76-5-109.1
d) “Enterprise” is as defined in Section 76-10-1602.
e) “Physical injury” means an injury to or condition of a child which impairs the physical condition of the child, including:
I. a bruise or other contusion of the skin;
II. a minor laceration or abrasion;
III. failure to thrive or malnutrition; or
IV. any other condition which imperils the child’s health or welfare and which is not a serious physical injury as defined in Subsection (1)(f).
f) “(i)Serious physical injury” means any physical injury or set of injuries that:
A. seriously impairs the child’s health;
B. involves physical torture;
C. causes serious emotional harm to the child; or
D. involves a substantial risk of death to the child.
I. “Serious physical injury” includes:
A. fracture of any bone or bones;
B. intracranial bleeding, swelling or contusion of the brain, whether caused by blows, shaking, or causing the child’s head to impact with an object or surface;
C. any burn, including burns inflicted by hot water, or those caused by placing a hot object upon the skin or body of the child;
D. any injury caused by use of a dangerous weapon as defined in Section 76-1-601 ;
E. any combination of two or more physical injuries inflicted by the same person, either at the same time or on different occasions;
F. any damage to internal organs of the body;
G. any conduct toward a child that results in severe emotional harm, severe developmental delay or intellectual disability, or severe impairment of the child’s ability to function;
H. any injury that creates a permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, limb, or organ;
I. any impediment of the breathing or the circulation of blood by application of pressure to the neck, throat, or chest, or by the obstruction of the nose or mouth, that is likely to produce a loss of consciousness;
J. any conduct that results in starvation or failure to thrive or malnutrition that jeopardizes the child’s life; or
K. Unconsciousness caused by the unlawful infliction of a brain injury or unlawfully causing any deprivation of oxygen to the brain.
2. Any person who inflicts upon a child serious physical injury or, having the care or custody of such child, causes or permits another to inflict serious physical injury upon a child is guilty of an offense as follows:
a) if done intentionally or knowingly, the offense is a felony of the second degree;
b) if done recklessly, the offense is a felony of the third degree; or
c) if done with criminal negligence, the offense is a class A misdemeanor.
3. Any person who inflicts upon a child physical injury or, having the care or custody of such child, causes or permits another to inflict physical injury upon a child is guilty of an offense as follows:
a) if done intentionally or knowingly, the offense is a class A misdemeanor;
b) if done recklessly, the offense is a class B misdemeanor; or
c) if done with criminal negligence, the offense is a class C misdemeanor.
4. A person who commits child abandonment, or encourages or causes another to commit child abandonment, or an enterprise that encourages, commands, or causes another to commit child abandonment, is:
a) except as provided in Subsection (4)(b), guilty of a felony of the third degree; or
b) guilty of a felony of the second degree, if, as a result of the child abandonment:
i. the child suffers a serious physical injury; or
ii. the person or enterprise receives, directly or indirectly, any benefit.
5. In addition to the penalty described in Subsection (4)(b), the court may order the person or enterprise described in Subsection (4)(b)(ii) to pay the costs of investigating and prosecuting the offense and the costs of securing any forfeiture provided for under Subsection (5)(b).
a) Any tangible or pecuniary benefit received under Subsection (4)(b)(ii) is subject to criminal or civil forfeiture pursuant to Title 24, Forfeiture and Disposition of Property Act.
6. A parent or legal guardian who provides a child with treatment by spiritual means alone through prayer, in lieu of medical treatment, in accordance with the tenets and practices of an established church or religious denomination of which the parent or legal guardian is a member or adherent shall not, for that reason alone, be considered to have committed an offense under this section.
7. A parent or guardian of a child does not violate this section by selecting a treatment option for the medical condition of the child, if the treatment option is one that a reasonable parent or guardian would believe to be in the best interest of the child.
8. A person is not guilty of an offense under this section for conduct that constitutes:
a) reasonable discipline or management of a child, including withholding privileges;
b) conduct described in Section 76-2-401 ; or
c) he use of reasonable and necessary physical restraint or force on a child:
I. in self-defense;
II. in defense of others;
III. to protect the child; or
IV. to remove a weapon in the possession of a child for any of the reasons described in Subsections (8)(c)(i) through (iii).
Terms Used In Utah Code 76-5-109
• Civil forfeiture: The loss of ownership of property used to conduct illegal activity.
• Conduct: means an act or omission.
Child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian, or person in charge of a child either deserts a child without any regard for the child’s physical health, safety or welfare and with the intention of wholly abandoning the child, or in some instances, fails to provide necessary care for a child living under their roof. While abandoning a child typically involves physical abandonment — such as leaving a child at a stranger’s doorstep when no one is home. It may also include extreme cases of emotional abandonment such as when a “workaholic” parent offers little or no physical contact or emotional support over long periods of time. Unfortunately, abandoned children (also called “foundlings”) who do not get their needs met often grow up with low self-esteem, emotional dependency, helplessness, and other issues. A person charged with deserting a child may face felony or misdemeanor penalties and other consequences. The term “child abandonment” is broadly categorized and used to describe a variety of behaviors. Specific examples of abandonment vary, but common actions that may lead to charges include:
• Leaving a child with another person without provision for the child’s support and without meaningful communication with the child for a period of three months;
• Making only minimal efforts to support and communicate with a child;
• Failing for a period of at least six months to maintain regular visitation with a child;
• Failing to participate in a suitable plan or program designed to reunite the parent or guardian with a child;
• Leaving an infant on a doorstep, in trash cans and dumpsters, and on the side of the road;
• Being absent from the home for a period of time that created a substantial risk of serious harm to a child left in the home;
• Failing to respond to notice of child protective proceedings; or
• Being unwilling to provide care, support, or supervision for the child.
The laws vary from state to state. Many states include deserting a child within its child abuse laws and vice versa, while some states have laws specifically targeting the act of abandoning a child. Most states classify abandonment as a felony, which may include situations where a parent or guardian physically abandons a child in any place with the intent of relinquishing all rights and responsibilities to the child. Other states classify the desertion of a child as a misdemeanor (with lesser penalties), including situations that involve non-physical acts of abandonment. In general, child abandonment occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person has physical custody or control of a child and, when acting without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of the child:
• Knowing leaves a child (typically under the age of 13) without supervision by a responsible person (typically over the age of 14); or
• Fails to maintain contact with the child or provide reasonable support for a specified period of time.
In the criminal context, child desertion is defined as physically abandoning a child, but may also include emotional abandonment such as failing to provide basic needs to a child. For example, in some states, a parent may be guilty of abandonment if they fail to provide necessary clothing, food, shelter or medical care for their child. In other states, however, parents are only punished for deserting a child with the intent to abandon the child.
Mandatory Reporting Laws
Because abandoning a child is considered child abuse in some states, certain people may be required to report known or suspected cases of child abandonment to the proper authorities. Check your state’s child abuse laws to see if you qualify as a “mandatory reporter.”
Safe Haven Law Exception
Most jurisdictions have exceptions to child abandonment in the form of safe haven laws. Safe Haven Laws allow mothers to safely abandon their newborn infants in safe locations – such as churches, hospitals, and fire stations – without fear of being charged with the crime of child abandonment.
Leaving a Child at Home Alone
While it’s necessary in some instances to leave a child at home alone, states typically offer age guidelines to help parents avoid abandonment charges. Under some state statutes, leaving a child at home alone may constitute child abandonment, depending on a number of factors, including the age of the child, duration of time the child was left without adult supervision, and economic hardship or illness of the parent or guardian. Read tips on leaving a child home alone to better understand how to fulfill your obligations.
Child Abuse And Neglect
Abuse and neglect refers to circumstances that may be harmful to a child’s physical, emotional or psychological health.
• Physical abuse – any action, including discipline, causing injury to the child’s body.
• Sexual abuse – any action involving a child in sexual exploitation or sexual activity including touching, exposure, using a child in the making of/or viewing pornography.
• Emotional maltreatment – expecting a child to be able to do things he or she cannot do, embarrassing or insulting a child, making hurtful comments about a child’s appearance, intelligence, size, ability, etc.
• Neglect – failing to provide a child with enough food, proper clothing, shelter, health care, or supervision.
• Domestic violence – exposing a child to a pattern of abusive behaviour or threats of abusive behaviour by one caregiver against another (hitting, kicking, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, intimidation, stalking, etc.).
How Can I Stop Child Abuse And Neglect?
As a parent, if you feel unable to safely parent your child, immediately contact your nearest Ministry of Social Services office. As a member of the community, if you believe a child may be neglected or abused, you have a legal responsibility to immediately report your concerns.
• Time is of the essence in ensuring the safety and well-being of children. Immediately report all incidents of suspected, observed or disclosed abuse.
• Do not wait until you have all information before reporting the abuse.
• You have an ongoing duty to report child abuse, even if you believe a report has already been made.
• If you believe the child or other children must be protected from further abuse, please contact the police.
• Do not contact the alleged perpetrator.
A number of terms are used to refer to the maltreatment of children, including the following:
• Neglect: An act of omission by a parent or care-giver that involves refusal or delay in providing health care, education, or basic needs such as food, clothes, shelter, affection, and attention. Neglect also includes inadequate supervision and abandonment.
• Emotional abuse: An act or omission by a parent or caregiver that involves rejecting, isolating, terrorizing, ignoring, or corrupting a child. Examples include, but are not limited to, verbal abuse; withholding food, sleep, or shelter; exposing a child to domestic violence; refusing to provide psychological care; and confinement. An important component of emotional abuse is that it must be sustained and repetitive.
• Physical abuse: An act of commission by a parent or caregiver that results in, or is likely to result in, physical harm to the child–including death. Examples include hitting, kicking, biting, shaking, burning, and punching the child. Spanking a child is usually considered a form of discipline, unless the child is bruised or injured.
• Sexual abuse: An act of commission by an parent or caregiver of sexual intrusion or penetration, molestation with genital contact, sodomy, rape, exhibitionism, or other forms of sexual acts in which the child is used to provide sexual gratification to the perpetrator. This type of abuse can also include child pornography.
Utah Criminal Code 76-5-109 Lawyer
When you need legal help with Utah Criminal Code 76-5-109, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506
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