Damico & Stockstill, Attorneys at Law

Sandusky case prompts lawmaker to propose stricter reporting standards

Our readers have by now heard about the criminal case against Jerry Sandusky, former assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University. Sandusky was arrested earlier this year and charged with over 40 counts of sexual abuse of young boys spanning a 15-year period.

The case has spurred Louisiana lawmakers to pass legislation that will toughen the state's law on child sex abuse reporting. Last Tuesday, a bill was backed by a Senate judiciary committee which would require expand reporting requirements.

As the Pocono Records points out, child care providers, clergy members, mental health workers, elementary and secondary school teachers and those listed in the state children's code are already required to report suspected child abuse. The bill currently under consideration in the Senate would require higher education officials, youth camp counselors, bus drivers and others to report suspected child abuse as well.

The measure would require such individuals to report allegations of abuse or neglect whether they see it or not. In addition, failure to do so would be changed from a misdemeanor crime to a felony carrying a sentence of up to three years in jail.

Child sexual abuse, among the many crimes of which one can be accused carries among the heaviest of stigmas, and the weight of public opinion against defendants can be demoralizing. Instead of defendant's being considered innocent until proven guilty, it often seems as if they are considered guilty until proven innocent.

In building a defense against child sexual abuse charges, it is important to consider potential alternative interpretations of a child's allegations, whether investigation into sexual abuse allegations has been biased, the legitimacy of the opinions of any expert witnesses, as well as potential alternative accounts of circumstantial evidence, motive and other factors leading to an accusation.

Those who've been accused of child sexual abuse do well to consult an attorney quickly, to begin building a defense.

Source: Pocono Record, "Bill would require reporting of child sex abuse," March 27, 2012.

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