ARS 13-3623 – Child Abuse – Arizona Law & Penalties (2022)

ARS 13-3623 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of child abuse. People commit this offense if, under certain circumstances, they cause a child to suffer physical injury, allow a child to be injured, or allow a child to be placed in a situation that endangers the child’s health or well-being. A violation of this law can lead to a Class 2 felony charge punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.

The language of ARS 13-3623 states that, for a conviction under this law, a prosecutor must prove that a defendant committed child abuse and acted either:

  • intentionally or knowingly,
  • recklessly, or
  • with criminal negligence.


  • allowing a child to stay in a building in which people are using flammable chemicals to manufacture a dangerous drug.
  • knowingly hitting a child where the act causes serious physical injury.
  • leaving a child in a car on a hot day with the windows rolled up.


People accused of child abuse can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. A few common defenses include the parties showing that:

  • they were acting within their legal rights to discipline the child,
  • they were falsely accused, and/or
  • a child was injured by something other than abuse.


A violation of ARS 13-3623 is a felony offense (as opposed to a misdemeanor). Depending on the facts of the case, child abuse can be charged as either a:

  • Class 2 felony,
  • Class 3 felony,
  • Class 4 felony,
  • Class 5 felony, or
  • Class 6 felony.

A Class 2 felony is the most severe charge and is punishable by custody in state prison for up to 10 years.

In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.

ARS 13-3623 – Child Abuse – Arizona Law & Penalties (1)

(Video) Vulnerable Adult Abuse : Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney

A violation of ARS 13-3623 can lead to a Class 2 felony charge punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.

1.How does Arizona law define “child abuse”?

Under Arizona law, people are guilty of child abuse if they, under certain circumstances, do any of the following:

  1. cause a child to suffer physical injury,
  2. allow a child to be injured, or
  3. allow a child to be placed in a situation that endangers the child’s health or well-being.i

To secure a conviction under this law, a prosecutor has to show that the defendant committed child abuse and he/she did so either:

  • intentionally or knowingly,
  • recklessly, or
  • with criminal negligence.ii

A few definitions here are helpful:

  • knowingly” means that a person is aware or believes that their conduct is of a nature or that a particular circumstance exists,iii
  • recklessly” means that a person commits an act although aware of, and in grossly conscious disregard to, a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm to some person,ivand
  • criminal negligence” is a when a person acts while failing to perceive that the act may result in a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm.v

For purposes of this law, a “child” means a person who is under the age of

Note that a person is guilty of child abuse even if he/she is not the parent or guardian of the “victim.”vii

2. Are there defenses to child abuse charges under ARS 13-3623?

Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to defend against charges brought under this statute. A few common ones include the attorneys showing that:

  1. the defendant was lawfully disciplining his/her child.
  2. the defendant was falsely accused.
  3. a child was injured by something else other than abuse.

2.1 Lawfully disciplining a child

Parents have the right to discipline their children using “corporal punishment.” They can even use an object (such as a belt or paddle) as long as the discipline was reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline.viii

2.2 Falsely accused

Unfortunately, people get falsely accused of this crime all of the time. For instance, a child may give a false accusation to gain attention or because they want to get placed out of their home. Further, one parent may falsely accuse another parent in order to win a custody dispute. A defense, then, is for accused people to show that they were unjustly blamed.

2.3 Other cause of injury

Children often get hurt or become endangered in a variety of different ways (for example, through playing or acting out of curiosity). Therefore, defendants can try to establish their innocence by showing that the “victim” was injured by something other than abuse.

ARS 13-3623 – Child Abuse – Arizona Law & Penalties (2)

A conviction can lead to a prison sentence.

3. What are the penalties?

The penalties for child abuse will depend on the specific facts of a case.

If a defendant commits child abuse under circumstances likely to cause death or serious injury to the child, then the crime is charged as either a:

  • Class 2 felony, if the defendant acted intentionally or knowingly (a Class 2 felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison),
  • Class 3 felony, if the defendant acted recklessly (a Class 3 felony is punishable by almost four years in prison), or
  • Class 4 felony, if the defendant acted with criminal negligence (a Class 4 felony is punishable by almost three years in prison).

If a defendant commits child abuse under circumstances other than those likely to produce death or serious injury, then the crime is charged as either a:

  • Class 4 felony, if the defendant acted intentionally or knowingly,
  • Class 5 felony, if the defendant acted recklessly (a Class 5 felony is punishable by up to a year-and-a-half in prison), or
  • Class 6 felony, if the defendant acted with criminal negligence (a Class 6 felony is punishable by one year in prison).

4. How can people report instances of child abuse?

People can always report instances of abuse, or make abuse referrals, to a peace officer or a law enforcement agent.

Reports of child abuse can also be made to the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) or by calling the statewide child abuse hotline phone number at 1-888-sos-child. People can call this number in instances of child abuse, child maltreatment, and/or child neglect.ix

Note that Prevent Child Abuse Arizona is an Arizona organization dedicated to promoting child abuse prevention.x

Note, too, that if a child abuse case gets started in the Arizona court system, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is an organization that helps advocate for a child’s needs.xi

5. Are there related offenses?

There are three crimes related to child abuse. These are:

  1. endangerment – ARS 13-1201,
  2. custodial interference – ARS 13-1302, and
  3. assault – 13-1203.

5.1 Endangerment – ARS 13-1201

Per ARS 13-1201, endangerment is the offense where people recklessly put someone at risk of imminent death or physical injury.

Depending on the facts of a child abuse case, it is possible for a defendant to face charges of both:

  • child abuse, and
  • endangerment.

5.2 Custodial interference – ARS 13-1302

Per ARS 13-1302, custodial interference is the offense where people commit an act in relation to a child and do so without legal authority. Some prohibited acts under this statute include:

  1. taking a child from another’s lawful custody, and
  2. denying a parent access to their child.

Unlike with child abuse, a person does not have to act with a specific criminal state of mind to be guilty of custodial interference.

5.3 Assault – 13-1203

Per ARS 13-1203, assault is the crime where people intentionally or recklessly cause physical injury to someone, intentionally place another person in fear of physical injury, or knowingly touch someone with the intent to injure or provoke them.

Unlike with child abuse, assault is a misdemeanor offense in Arizona.

Note that sexual assault is a separate crime set forth under ARS 13-1406.

For additional help…

ARS 13-3623 – Child Abuse – Arizona Law & Penalties (3)

Call us for help

If you or a loved one is facing a child abuse charge, we invite you to contact our law firm at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both a free consultation and legal advice you can trust.

Legal References:

  1. Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3623A and B.
  2. See same.
  3. A.R.S. 13-105(10)(b).
  4. State ex Rel. Thomas v. Duncan, 216 Ariz. 260 (2007). See also ARS 13-105(10)(c).
  5. ARS 13-105.
  6. ARS 13-3623F2.
  7. Cespedes v. Lee, 243 Ariz. 46 (2017).
  8. ARS 13-403.
  9. Note that mandated reporters are required by law, as defined by ARS 13-3620, to report all concerns of child abuse or neglect. To view information regarding the DCS and its pandemic information, please click here. Note also that DCS was formerly known as Child Protective Services (CPS).
  10. Per the organization’s website, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona is dedicated to strengthening families and protecting children through collaboration, education, and advocacy. PCA Arizona provides training, parenting education and prevention services to families, foster parents, child welfare professionals, social service providers, law enforcement, court personnel, and the public (including caregivers and health care providers).
  11. If a court case is initiated and a child abuse incident gets substantiated, the child victim may be placed in foster care.

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What is the penalty for child neglect in Arizona? ›

Arizona Child Abandonment and Child Neglect Laws at a Glance
Child Abandonment or Neglect (minimal penalty)Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-3619, et seq. Class 1 Misdemeanor Up to 6 months in prison 3 years of probation $2,500 fine plus surcharges
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5 Mar 2018

Can you go to jail for verbal abuse in Arizona? ›

If you are charged for threatening or intimidating a person using a deadly weapon or verbally, there are severe consequences you may be facing, including jail time. Having the highly experienced Phoenix Criminal Attorney to present a strong defense for your case is critical.

Is child endangerment a felony in Arizona? ›

Arizona Penalties for Child Endangerment

Child endangerment for substantial risk of imminent death is a Class 6 Felony charge, which is punishable by 6 to 18 months in prison and/or fines of $750 or more.

What happens if a mandated reporter fails to report in Arizona? ›

A person who is required to report known or suspected child abuse and who knowingly and willfully fails to do so, or who knowingly and willfully prevents another person from doing so, commits a felony of the third degree, which is punishable as provided in §§ 775.082, 775.083, or 775.084.

What is the punishment for child neglect? ›

Penalties for Child Neglect

Abandonment with Intent to Return: 6 months to 2 years in state jail and a fine up to $10,000. Abandonment with No Intent to Return: 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Abandonment Placing Child in Imminent Danger: 2 to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Is hitting your child illegal in Arizona? ›

Is it legal to hit kids in Arizona? Purposefully hitting a child hard enough to cause physical injury is considered child abuse in Arizona and is most certainly not legal. If a child presents bruises, broken bones, burns, cuts, etc. as a result of a physical attack, their attacker should be charged with a crime.

What is the punishment for verbal abuse? ›

The punishment provided in the code for committing the offence under this section is imprisonment for 2 years or fine, or may include both. It is a non-cognizable as well as a bailable offence, triable by any Magistrate.

Is emotional abuse a crime in Arizona? ›

1. If done intentionally or knowingly, the offense is a class 2 felony and if the victim is under fifteen years of age it is punishable pursuant to § 13-705. 2. If done recklessly, the offense is a class 3 felony.

Can you go to jail for verbal assault? ›

This means that the answer to the question, “Can you go to jail for verbal abuse?” is yes — if the abuse qualifies as assault. However, it's much more likely that a person found guilty of verbal assault will receive criminal fines and probation instead.

What is a Class 4 felony in Arizona? ›

Common class 4 felony crimes include: Certain types of aggravated assault; Burglary in the third degree; Criminal damage (if the value is over $10,000);

What is the statute of limitations in Arizona? ›

The general time limits are: seven years for class 2 through 6 felonies. one year for misdemeanors, and. six months for petty offenses.

What age can a child stay home alone in Arizona? ›

Arizona's statutes (laws) do not designate an age when a child can be left alone. A parent is responsible for the decisions he or she makes about their children being left alone.

What were the consequences of a failure to report? ›

Failing to Report Can Bring Severe Consequences

A failure to report child abuse can lead to severe consequences including a fine or time in prison for the reporter. Beyond the legal ramifications of a failure to report, not doing this crucial duty can lead to the injury or even the death of the child.

What are the 4 types of mandatory reporters? ›

These people are mandated reporters and have established relationships with children based on their profession. Licensed emergency medical care providers. Licensed master social workers. School counselors.

What are the consequence of non reporting for mandated persons? ›

The Children First Act 2015 does not impose criminal sanctions on mandated persons who fail to make a report to Tusla. However, if after an investigation it emerges that you did not make a mandated report and a child was subsequently left at risk or harmed.

What are the consequences of abusing a child? ›

Over the long term, children who are abused or neglected are also at increased risk for experiencing future violence victimization and perpetration, substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections, delayed brain development, lower educational attainment, and limited employment opportunities.

What is a Sarah's law? ›

The child sex offender disclosure scheme, sometimes called 'Sarah's Law', allows parents, carers or guardians to formally ask the police for information about a person who has contact with their child, or a child close to them, if they're concerned the person may pose a risk.

Can you be prosecuted for neglect? ›

Neglect may amount to a criminal offence under section 44 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (ill-treatment or neglect of a person lacking capacity), section 127 of the Mental Health Act 1983 (ill-treatment or neglect of mental hospital patients) or sections 20 and 21 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 (ill- ...

Is slapping your child in the face illegal? ›

Punishment involving slaps or blows to the head is harmful, the Court held. Use of any implement other than a bare hand is illegal and hitting a child in anger or in retaliation for something a child did is not considered reasonable and is against the law.

Can a parent slap a child? ›

As previously discussed, corporal punishment of a child in California is illegal if it is cruel, inhuman, or causes a traumatic condition. Therefore, if a parent hits a child in a manner that is cruel, inhuman, or causes external or internal injuries, they may be arrested.

Is it illegal for parents to hit their child? ›

In California, spanking is legal, but must fall within a range of what is considered “reasonable discipline.” 2 If you are a parent who uses spanking as a form of punishment, it is important for you to know when you have crossed the line between spanking and child abuse.

What is the punishment for using abusive words? ›

Whoever, to the annoyance of others; (a) Does any obscene act in any public place, or. (b) Sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place, Shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.

Is yelling a form of violence? ›

There can also be verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse and more. So, is yelling at someone considered domestic violence? Under these guidelines, many experts do call yelling at someone a form of domestic violence. It could qualify as either verbal abuse or emotional abuse — or both.

Is shouting at someone assault? ›

Simple assault is any criminal act that involves violence. It can possibly include someone yelling to intimidate or threatening another person or even gesturing with their hand can be an assault without touching or causing any injuries.

What are the 4 types of child neglect? ›

  • Physical Neglect. The failure to provide necessary food, clothing, and shelter; inappropriate or lack of supervision.
  • Medical Neglect. The failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment.
  • Educational Neglect. ...
  • Emotional Neglect.
27 Dec 2018

What is considered emotional abuse in Arizona? ›

In cases of emotional abuse, any type of psychological harm, such as exposing a victim to a behavior that can result in emotional trauma, anxiety or depression, can be considered detrimental to the victim and stand as evidence.

Who is considered a mandated reporter in Arizona? ›

Any person other than one required to report or cause reports to be made who has a reasonable basis to believe that abuse, neglect or exploitation of a vulnerable adult has occurred may report the information to a peace officer or to the adult protective services central intake unit.

Can you be convicted by word of mouth? ›

Oral copulation in public is often a misdemeanor. For example, in California, a conviction for oral copulation through force or fear carries: 3, 6, or 8 years in California state prison, and/or. up to $10,000 in fines.

Is it an offence to send abusive text messages? ›

The purpose for sending it is to cause distress or anxiety to the person it is sent to. An offence of Malicious Communications occurs as soon as the communication is sent, and does not even have to be received by the intended person. It is the sending and intent of the offender which counts as an offence.

Can you hit someone if they provoke you? ›

Can you hit someone if they provoke you? Just because someone insulted you or said something rude or mean doesn't mean you have the right to hit them. However, if physical harm is imminent or they've already hit you once, you may have a legal right to self defence and can hit them back.

What is the lowest sentence for a felony? ›

In general, felony offenses, whether state or federal, carry a minimum sentence of one year in prison. Federal felony crimes are divided into classes, with increasing maximum sentences based on the severity of the crime: Class "E" felonies are the least serious and carry penalties of up to three years in prison.

How long does a felony stay on your record in Arizona? ›

In Arizona, charges, arrests, misdemeanors and felony convictions will stay on your record until they are expunged. In Arizona, expungement is called “motion to set aside.”

What is a Class 1 felony in Arizona? ›

What crimes are Class 1 felony crimes? There are only 2 crimes that are categorized as Class 1 felonies in Arizona. They are: first-degree murder, and. second-degree murder.

How long does Arizona have to press charges? ›

Misdemeanors: Generally the state has one year to bring misdemeanor charges against a person in Arizona. Felonies: Arizona prosecutors have seven years to file felony criminal charges against a person.

What is considered a serious offense in Arizona? ›

Arizona Revised Statute section 13-105(13) defines a dangerous offense as one: (1) involving the use, threatening exhibition or discharge of a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon or (2) the knowing or intentional infliction of serious physical injury.

What crimes have no statute of limitations in Arizona? ›

In Arizona, there is no statute of limitations for murder or violent sexual assault -- meaning, someone may be prosecuted for these types of offenses regardless of whether the crime was committed 1 year ago or 40 years ago. Other felonies generally carry a 7-year statute of limitations.

Can I leave my 7 year old home alone for 15 minutes? ›

Kids should never be left alone until they are 8 years old, and kids between the ages 8-10 shouldn't be left for more than an hour-and-a-half or during night-time hours.

Is leaving a child home alone neglect? ›

Parents and carers can be prosecuted for neglect if it is judged that they placed a child at risk by leaving them at home alone. A child should never be left at home alone if they do not feel comfortable with this, regardless of their age.

Can a 12 year old babysit? ›

While every child is different, we wouldn't recommend leaving a child under 12 years old home alone, particularly for longer periods of time. Children in primary school aged 6-12 are usually too young to walk home from school alone, babysit or cook for themselves without adult supervision.

What makes a parent unfit in Arizona? ›

There are parents who seek sole custody of their child because they believe that their former spouse is unfit to be a parent. In general, an “unfit parent” is one who fails to properly provide for the child and to ensure their wellbeing.

What is considered neglect of a child? ›

'Neglect' means negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child, including the failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment, or supervision. The term 'abuse' includes nonaccidental mental injury.

What happens if you don't pay child support in Arizona? ›

Q: What Happens if You Don't Pay Child Support in Arizona? A: If you miss child support payments, you may see hefty penalties, including fines, jail time, wage garnishment, and disruption of licensure and other benefits.

At what age can a child decide which parent to live with in Arizona? ›

In Arizona, a child can decide which parent to live with after their parent's divorce only when the child reaches his or her 18th birthday. At this age, when the child is no longer a minor, the Court loses jurisdiction over the child for purposes of determining legal decision-making (custody) and parenting time.

Is Arizona a dad State? ›

No, Arizona is not a Mother's state. A judge in Arizona is not allowed to consider the gender of either parent when making a child custody order. Can a Mother Keep a Child Away From the Father? A mother in Arizona cannot legally keep a child from his or her father.

What is considered abuse in Arizona? ›

a person presently under the age of 18 is the subject of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment or exploitation which a parent, guardian or custodian has inflicted, may inflict, permitted another person to inflict or had reason to know another person may inflict AND contains sufficient information to ...

What do judges look for in child custody cases? ›

The most basic part of the "best interests" standard is that custody decisions should serve the children's health, safety, and welfare. Judges will look at whether one or both parents are able to handle a child's special educational, medical, mental health, and other needs.

What are the 4 types of child neglect? ›

  • Physical Neglect. The failure to provide necessary food, clothing, and shelter; inappropriate or lack of supervision.
  • Medical Neglect. The failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment.
  • Educational Neglect. ...
  • Emotional Neglect.
27 Dec 2018

What is a neglectful parent? ›

Uninvolved parenting, sometimes referred to as neglectful parenting, is a style characterized by a lack of responsiveness to a child's needs. Uninvolved parents make few to no demands of their children and they are often indifferent, dismissive, or even completely neglectful.

What happens when a child is exposed to violence? ›

[1] Exposure to violence can harm a child's emotional, psychological and even physical development. Children exposed to violence are more likely to have difficulty in school, abuse drugs or alcohol, act aggressively, suffer from depression or other mental health problems and engage in criminal behavior as adults.

What is the maximum child support in Arizona? ›

Maximum child support in Arizona law, is 50 percent of the parent's disposable income. This amount also applies to a person who has gotten married again and who is currently supporting another family.

Does Arizona enforce child support? ›

Yes, Arizona does enforce child support through the Superior Courts of the county in which you file to enforce child support. Arizona can enforce child support orders issued by an Arizona judge, as well as child support orders issued in other states pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.

How long do you stay in jail for child support? ›

Yes... You may be placed in jail for up to six months for not paying child support. The legal basis for placing you in jail is "contempt of court." Contempt of court is a legal term that means you are not following a court order.

At what age can a child refuse visitation in Arizona? ›

Arizona law states that the child must be “of suitable age and maturity,” but it doesn't specify a particular age (ARS 25-403). In that sense, a child cannot outright refuse visitation with a parent until the child turns 18.

Can a 13 year old choose which parent to live with in Arizona? ›

In Arizona, there is simply no magic age at which a child gets to decide which parent they can live with when their parents divorce. Despite this, your child's wishes can be considered by the court no matter how old they are.

How long does a father have to be absent to lose his rights in Arizona? ›

A Father May Lose His Visitation Rights If He's Been Absent For 6 Months. If a father has established paternity and has either voluntarily or involuntarily been absent from the child's life for six months, he can lose his visitation rights.

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