Child Abuse

Arizona Child Abuse Laws criminalize physical, emotional, or sexual abuse of minors and also require certain third parties with knowledge of the abuse to report it to the authorities. The Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) investigates reports of child abuse (and neglect) in the state.


  • Infliction or allowing of physical injury

  • Impairment of bodily function or disfigurement

  • Serious emotional damage diagnosed by a doctor or psychologist, and as evidenced by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or aggressive behavior caused by acts or omissions of individual having care and custody of child


  • Physical abuse -- non-accidental physical injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burns, cuts or other injuries.

  • Sexual abuse -- when sex acts are performed with children. Using children in pornography, prostitution or other types of sexual activity is also sexual abuse.

  • Neglect -- when children are not given necessary care for illness or injury; leaving young children unsupervised or alone, locked in or out of the house, or without adequate clothing, food, or shelter. Allowing children to live in a very dirty house which could be a health hazard may also qualify as neglect.

  • Emotional abuse of a child -- severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or improper aggressive behavior as diagnosed by a medical doctor or psychologist, and caused by the acts or omissions of the parent or caretaker.

  • Exploitation -- use of a child by a parent, guardian or custodian for material gain.

  • Abandonment -- the failure of the parent to provide reasonable support and to maintain regular contact with the child, including providing normal supervision, when such failure is intentional and continues for an indefinite period.


Arizona law, A.R.S. § 13-403, which is found within the criminal code, provides the following:

13-403. Justification; use of physical force

The use of physical force upon another person which would otherwise constitute an offense is justifiable and not criminal under any of the following circumstances:

A parent or guardian and a teacher or other person entrusted with the care and supervision of a minor or incompetent person may use reasonable and appropriate physical force upon the minor or incompetent person when and to the extent reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline.

Corporal punishment is not advised under any circumstances, however.


There are two categories of punishment for child abuse. The first category is if the child is placed in a situation that places their life or health in danger. The second category is when the victim’s life or health was not in danger.


  • Abuse that occurred with intention or full knowledge is a Class 2 felony

  • If the victim was 15 or younger at the time of the occurrence, the crime

    falls under the Dangerous Crimes Against Children Statute

  • Abuse that was caused by recklessness is a Class 3 felony

  • Abuse that occurred due to criminal negligence will be classified as a Class 4 felony


  • An act done with intention or knowledge is a Class 4 felony

  • An act that occurred recklessly is Class 5 felony

  • An act committed with criminal negligence is a Class 6 felony

    Recklessness means if the defendant should have been aware of or chose to disregard a situation in which there was a substantial risk of circumstance that would contribute to an occurrence of abuse. The risk and circumstances involved must also be recognized as a “gross deviation” from the norm of what a reasonable person would consider a normal standard of conduct.

    Criminal Negligence means that the Defendant must have failed to identify a substantial risk that a reasonable person would have recognized during the occurrence.


Observation or examination of child discloses reasonable grounds to believe minor is a victim of injury or abuse, the following are required by law to report to a peace officer or Child Protective Serves of the Department of Economic Security

  • Physician

  • Resident

  • Dentist

  • Chiropractor

  • Nurse

  • Psychologist

  • Social worker

  • School personnel

  • Peace officer

  • Parent

  • Counselor

  • Clergyman/priest

  • The penalty for failure to report is a Class One Misdemeanor.

For further information, or questions about Child Abuse Laws please contact Adams & Associates, PLC at 480 219 1366, or E-mail Ashley at