By Stephen Sebald
Child abuse laws in Pennsylvania are now stricter than ever. In the wake of the Sandusky scandal, Act 31 of 2014 was passed to prevent child abusers from slipping through the cracks. In the past, Pennsylvania has had a high threshold for what constitutes as child abuse, leading to few reports. The lenient laws left too many children unprotected from abusive behaviors. The new regulations, which consist of twenty-one pieces of legislation, are aimed to drastically change child abuse prevention and detection.
Under the new law, more people are obligated to report child abuse. The responsibility extends to professionals that are in direct contact with a child—foster parents, daycare workers, healthcare professionals, and school employees. They are required to report any signs of abuse to the state’s hotline, rather than the prior practice of reporting through the chain of command. Mandated reporters have forty-eight hours to report any suspected child abuse. If they fail to do so, they risk legal actions. A first offense is considered a third-degree misdemeanor, with a sentence of up to one-year jail time.
One of the most significant changes is what is legally considered abuse. Previously, a child must suffer serious physical injury that results in lasting impairment or severe pain to constitute abusive behavior. The new law has lowered the standard to a bodily injury, which requires substantial pain or impairment of physical condition.
Pennsylvania is expected to see an increased amount of child abuse allegations due to stricter laws and vigilance surrounding child protection, which can easily lead to false accusations. The impact of being falsely accused of abusing a child is devastating, and this type of accusation on your record will follow you the rest of your life.
Contact Sebald, Hackwelder, & Knox for a consultation with a child abuse defense lawyer about your allegations of child abuse. We are aggressive Pennsylvania criminal defense attorneys who are highly qualified with over 13 years of experience. We work diligently to get you the best possible outcome for your case. (814) 833-1987.