House committee adopts bill to make shaking a baby a crime.
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House committee adopts bill to make shaking a baby a crime.

Date: February 28, 2012
By: Ildefonso Perez and Piotr Studnicki
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB 1317

JEFFERSON CITY -The House General Laws committee unanimously passed a bill that adds shaking an infant to the crime of child abuse.

The measure was introduced by Rep. Jeanie Riddle, R-Mokane, and already passed out of committee once. The House Rules Committee, however, returned the bill to change the title to “child abuse by head trauma” instead of “child abuse."

Riddle said that adding “abusive head trauma” as a cause for child abuse the bill would help prosecutors in their cases against child abusers. “Abusive head trauma” is defined in the bill as any serious physical injury to the head or brain caused by any means, including shaking, jerking, pushing, pulling, slamming, hitting, or kicking.

The current statutory definition of child abuse is not specific. The current definition poses a problem for prosecutors to prove a child was actually shaken. The term “abusive head trauma” is more accurate, according to bill supporters.

“Sometimes people get nervous about amending our child abuse codes and because that concern, and so, by making the title more specific it limits what can be added into it,” said Emily van Schenkhof, Deputy Director of Missouri Kids First, who testified in favor of the bill.

No one testified in opposition to the bill Tuesday.

Abuse of a child is currently a class C felony, unless the person inflicts serious physical injury or serious emotional injury on a child younger than two years of age or it is committed as a part of a ritual or ceremony in which case it is a class B felony.

The bill will now go to the House Rules Committee and then to the House floor. 

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