New child abuse laws take hold this week

Published 7:45 pm Saturday, July 28, 2012

Legislation spearheaded by local legislators to enact harsher penalties on child abuse will go into effect Aug. 1.

Jeanne Poppe and Sen. Dan Sparks, both DFL-Austin, spearheaded the child abuse portion of the Vulnerable Adult Bill, which Gov. Mark Dayton signed April 19. The law created a new two-year felony offense for child mistreatment that results in “demonstrable bodily harm.”

The child abuse bill was spurred to life as a standalone bill following a case in Mower County. Dexter couple Brian and Charity Miller were convicted of chaining their then 5-year-old son to his crib and withholding food and bathroom access from him and his 8-year-old brother. Since the law at the time would not allow a felony without “substantial” bodily harm, the Dexter couple was only charged with a gross misdemeanor.

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In addition to child abuse laws, the Vulnerable Adult Bill also tightened the penalty on caregivers who intentionally deprive vulnerable adults of food, shelter, clothing or health care.