Randy Yohe Published

Bill Increasing Child Abuse, Neglect Penalties Moving Through Legislature 

An adult embraces a child holding a teddy bear.Seventyfour/Adobe Stock

A new bill introduced in the West Virginia House of Delegates raises fines and prison time for parents, guardians and custodians convicted of felony crimes involving child abuse or neglect causing degrees of bodily injury and/or risk of death. 

A conviction of serious bodily injury for example, calls for imprisonment in a state correctional facility for not less than five nor more than 15 years, instead of the previous two and 10.

House Bill 4302 also includes people in a position of trust with a child, such as a day care worker, as those subject to the same penalties upon a child abuse or neglect conviction. 

The bill’s sponsor, Del. Doug Smith, R-Mercer, said that inclusion is vital in 2024.

“Those people are responsible for our children,” Smith said. “The same as any adult would be – father, mother, grandparent. We need to provide an all around inclusion for the protection of the kids.”

Any person convicted of a second or subsequent felony offense under this proposal may be imprisoned for a term up to twice the term otherwise authorized and fined an amount up to twice that otherwise authorized, or both.

Anyone convicted of a misdemeanor offense under this bill may be required to complete parenting classes, substance abuse counseling, anger management counseling, or other appropriate services, or any combination of the above.

On third reading in the House on Monday, the child abuse penalty bill passed 96-0. It now goes on to the Senate, where Smith said it has not advanced in three previous attempts.