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  • Acts
  • 2002
  • Chapter 322 AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE CRIME OF RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT TO CHILDREN.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:


SECTION 1. The general court finds that the majority of state criminal codes and the model penal code include reckless endangerment offenses. These crimes punish reckless conduct that creates a risk of, but do not necessarily result in, serious physical injury. These crimes do not punish a particular injury or outcome, but seek to prevent and penalize the risk that is created. While examples of offenses from states that have adopted reckless endangerment statutes often involve physical acts, such offenses include conduct that does not involve the performance of a physical act. Several states limit the statutes' application to creating a risk of serious physical injury to children.

The general court further finds that there are growing numbers of complaints concerning the sexual abuse of minors by non-custodial adults who have been recklessly placed or retained in positions of trust and authority. The general court recognizes that reckless behavior may serve as the basis for criminal liability for certain crimes committed in the commonwealth. The general court hereby finds that there is a significant public interest and urgent necessity to protect children from physical and sexual abuse by penalizing reckless behavior that creates a risk of serious physical injury or sexual abuse to a child. It is the intention of the general court to penalize reckless behavior, including the failure to act where civil or criminal law has imposed a duty on persons to act in a certain manner, which results in a risk of serious physical injury or sexual abuse to a child.

SECTION 2. Chapter 265 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 13K the following section:-

Section 13L. For the purposes of this section, the following words shall have the following meanings:-

"Child", any person under 18 years of age.

"Serious bodily injury", bodily injury which results in a permanent disfigurement, protracted loss or impairment of a bodily function, limb or organ, or substantial risk of death.

"Sexual abuse", an indecent assault and battery on a child under 14 under section 13B of chapter 265; indecent assault and battery on a person age 14 or over under section 13H of said chapter 265; rape under section 22 of said chapter 265; rape of a child under 16 with force under section 22A of said chapter 265; rape and abuse of a child under section 23 of said chapter 265; assault with intent to commit rape under section 24 of said chapter 265; and assault of a child with intent to commit rape under section 24B of said chapter 265.

Whoever wantonly or recklessly engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or sexual abuse to a child or wantonly or recklessly fails to take reasonable steps to alleviate such risk where there is a duty to act shall be punished by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2> years.

For the purposes of this section, such wanton or reckless behavior occurs when a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his acts, or omissions where there is a duty to act, would result in serious bodily injury or sexual abuse to a child. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard of the risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

Approved September 12, 2002.