DENVER – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill Thursday that will extend the statute of limitations for failing to report suspected child abuse from 18 months to three years.
House Bill 19-049, whose prime sponsors were Sen. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora and Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, D-Commerce City, originally sought to extend the statute of limitations to five years but it was amended down to three.
The signing of the bill comes about two months after an Arapahoe District Court judge ruled that charges of failure to report suspected child abuse levied against the former principal and assistant principal at Prairie Middle School in the Cherry Creek School District should be dismissed because the statute of limitations had run their course before they were indicted.
Gov. Polis was busy signing bills into law 2day. TWO bills were mind: SB 049 to hold accountable mandatory reporters who fail to uphold their obligations and HB19-1033 signed to give local communities the tools they need to fight Vaping among our youth. #copolitics #coleg pic.twitter.com/PJ6QSkIHWO— Rhonda Fields (@SenRhondaFields) March 29, 2019
18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler supported the five-year statute of limitations. When the Prairie Middle School decision was handed down, Brauchler called the current law “extremely weak.”
“In a society that claims to want to protect the most vulnerable among us, how does that make any sense?” he said at the time.
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann also testified in favor of the measure.
The bill signed by Polis will apply to offenses committed on or after the day the bill becomes effective. The onset of the statute of limitations will kick in “when a mandatory reporter has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subject to unlawful sexual behavior or who has observed the child being subject to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in unlawful sexual behavior,” according to the bill’s fiscal note.
There are a host of persons who are required under state law to report suspected abuse, including teachers, medical professional, priests and others who work with children.
Though the Prairie Middle School case was among those discussed when moving the bill through the legislature, the three-year statute of limitations, had it been in place at the time, would still have run by the time the allegations were reported.