Conservative Idaho lawmakers seek to penalize parties who file false reports of child abuse

In 2022, there were more than 23,000 reports to Idaho child protection services, 9,300 were assigned to investigators, and of that number, 80% were unsubstantiated.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 5:19 PM MST
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BOISE, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Conservative lawmakers are seeking to have a criminal penalty attached to parties who knowingly file false reports of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

The proposed legislation was introduced by Republican lawmakers, Rep. Heather Scott, and Sen. Scott Herndon in the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee

Scott said in 2022, there were more than 23,000 reports to Idaho child protection services, 9,300 were assigned to investigators, and of that number, 80% were unsubstantiated.

Scott and Herndon said there is already a civil liability for those who file false reports, under Section 16-1607 of the Child Protective Act.

Any person who makes a report or allegation of child abuse, abandonment or neglect knowing the same to be false or who reports or alleges the same in bad faith or with malice shall be liable to the party or parties against whom the report was made for the amount of actual damages sustained or statutory damages of two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), whichever is greater, plus attorney’s fees and costs of suit. If the court finds that the defendant acted with malice or oppression, the court may award treble actual damages or treble statutory damages, whichever is greater.

16-1607. Reporting in bad faith — Civil damages

The proposed legislation amends the section and adds a criminal penalty. Those convicted would face a misdemeanor with a fine up to $1,000 and up to three months in jail.

“So, we are trying to target those bad actors that are maybe trying to cause trouble maybe in a custody battle, something that may be an emotionally charged situation,” Scott said.

A few of the lawmakers on the committee addressed concerns about some the language in the proposed legislation. They asked that the word “allegation” be struck out in the proposed legislation, and the proposed bill target those who knowingly make “false” reports.

“I just wanted to clarify for all the teachers that may be listening, when I look at this legislation, we are not talking about somebody who is reporting something because they are concerned about a child and are a mandatory reporter. We are talking about somebody filing a report that they know to be false,” said Dist. 30 Representative (Blackfoot) – Julianne Young.

It passed through committee with some amendments made to the proposed legislation.