1998 Regular Session
To: Juvenile Justice
By: Representatives Simmons (100th), Coleman (65th), Cummings, Davis, Moss, Peranich, Read, Scott (17th), Stribling
House Bill 1449
(As Sent to Governor)
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 43-21-353, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE REPORTING REQUIREMENTS OF CHILD ABUSE TO PROSECUTING ATTORNEYS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 43-21-353, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-21-353. (1) Any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social worker, child care giver, minister, law enforcement officer, public or private school employee or any other person having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child or an abused child, shall cause an oral report to be made immediately by telephone or otherwise and followed as soon thereafter as possible by a report in writing to the Department of Human Services, and immediately a referral shall be made by the Department of Human Services to the youth court intake unit, which unit shall promptly comply with Section 43-21-357. Where appropriate, the Department of Human Services shall additionally make a referral to the youth court prosecutor. Upon receiving a report that a child has been sexually abused, or burned, tortured, mutilated or otherwise physically abused in such a manner as to cause serious bodily harm, or upon receiving any report of abuse that * * * would be a felony under state or federal law, the Department of Human Services shall immediately notify the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the abuse occurred and shall notify the appropriate prosecutor within forty-eight (48) hours, and the Department of Human Services shall have the duty to provide the law enforcement agency all the names and facts known at the time of the report; this duty shall be of a continuing nature. The law enforcement agency and the Department of Human Services shall investigate the reported abuse immediately and shall file a preliminary report with the appropriate prosecutor's office within twenty-four (24) hours and shall make additional reports as new or additional information or evidence becomes available. The Department of Human Services shall advise the clerk of the youth court and the youth court prosecutor of all cases of abuse reported to the department within seventy-two (72) hours and shall update such report as information becomes available.
(2) Any report to the Department of Human Services shall contain the names and addresses of the child and his parents or other persons responsible for his care, if known, the child's age, the nature and extent of the child's injuries, including any evidence of previous injuries and any other information that might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury and the identity of the perpetrator.
(3) The Department of Human Services shall maintain a statewide incoming wide-area telephone service or similar service for the purpose of receiving reports of suspected cases of child abuse; provided that any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social worker, child care giver, minister, law enforcement officer or public or private school employee who is required to report under subsection (1) of this section shall report in the manner required in subsection (1).
(4) Reports of abuse and neglect made under this chapter and the identity of the reporter are confidential except when the court in which the investigation report is filed, in its discretion, determines the testimony of the person reporting to be material to a judicial proceeding or when the identity of the reporter is released to law enforcement agencies and the appropriate prosecutor pursuant to subsection (1). Reports made under this section to any law enforcement agency or prosecutorial officer are for the purpose of criminal investigation and prosecution only and no information from these reports may be released to the public except as provided by Section 43-21-261. Disclosure of any information by the prosecutor shall be according to the Mississippi Uniform Rules of Circuit and County Court Procedure. The identity of the reporting party shall not be disclosed to anyone other than law enforcement officers or prosecutors without an order from the appropriate youth court. Any person disclosing any reports made under this section in a manner not expressly provided for in this section or Section 43-21-261, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to the penalties prescribed by Section 43-21-267.
(5) All final dispositions of law enforcement investigations described in subsection (1) of this section shall be determined only by the appropriate prosecutor or court. All final dispositions of investigations by the Department of Human Services as described in subsection (1) of this section shall be determined only by the youth court. Reports made under subsection (1) of this section by the Department of Human Services to the law enforcement agency and to the district attorney's office shall include the following, if known to the department:
(a) The name and address of the child;
(b) The names and addresses of the parents;
(c) The name and address of the suspected perpetrator;
(d) The names and addresses of all witnesses, including the reporting party if a material witness to the abuse;
(e) A brief statement of the facts indicating that the child has been abused and any other information from the agency files or known to the social worker making the investigation, including medical records or other records, which may assist law enforcement or the district attorney in investigating and/or prosecuting the case; and
(f) What, if any, action is being taken by the Department of Human Services.
(6) In any investigation of a report made under this chapter of the abuse or neglect of a child as defined in Section 43-21-105(m), the Department of Human Services may request the appropriate law enforcement officer with jurisdiction to accompany the department in its investigation, and in such cases the law enforcement officer shall comply with such request.
(7) Anyone who willfully violates any provision of this section shall be, upon being found guilty, punished by a fine not to exceed Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or by imprisonment in jail not to exceed one (1) year, or both.
(8) If a report is made directly to the Department of Human Services that a child has been abused or neglected in an out-of-home setting, a referral shall be made immediately to the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the abuse occurred and the department shall notify the district attorney's office within forty-eight (48) hours of such report. The Department of Human Services shall investigate the out-of-home setting report of abuse or neglect to determine whether the child who is the subject of the report, or other children in the same environment, comes within the jurisdiction of the youth court and shall report to the youth court the department's findings and recommendation as to whether the child who is the subject of the report or other children in the same environment require the protection of the youth court. The law enforcement agency shall investigate the reported abuse immediately and shall file a preliminary report with the district attorney's office within forty-eight (48) hours and shall make additional reports as new information or evidence becomes available. If the out-of-home setting is a licensed facility, an additional referral shall be made by the Department of Human Services to the licensing agency. The licensing agency shall investigate the report and shall provide the Department of Human Services, the law enforcement agency and the district attorney's office with their written findings from such investigation as well as that licensing agency's recommendations and actions taken.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1998.