Safe Haven Laws Are There to Help

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Safe Haven Laws Are There to Help

Raising a child is quite a responsibility. Sometimes even when people think they are ready to become parents, it may be too much for them to handle. This is why every state has laws to protect people who no longer want to care for their newborns. However, these “safe haven laws” only apply in certain situations. Other circumstances could lead to criminal charges for child abuse or neglect. We explain Arizona’s safe haven laws in more detail below.

What Exactly Are Safe Haven Laws?

Ever since 1999, safe haven laws have been enacted in some form in all 50 states. The goal of these laws is to give parents an out that does not include abandoning, neglecting, or abusing their newborns. With these laws, no neglect or child abuse charges can be brought up against the parents as long as the parameters for safe haven protection are met.

What Are the Qualifications for Safe Haven Protection?

  1. The infant must be unharmed.
  2. The infant must be 30 days old or less.
  3. The infant must be handed to an employee of the safe haven location, or placed in a designated safe haven drawer. 
  4. Drop-off is only allowed at registered safe haven locations, including any hospital, ambulance, or on-duty fire station.

What Happens to the Infant?

If someone surrenders their child under safe haven laws, all their parental rights are terminated. The infant is given a medical examination to determine their state of health and to check for any signs of abuse or injury. If a placement with a private adoption firm cannot be made within 48 hours, or if the infant is injured, they will be taken into the custody of the state. That includes finding them a foster home, and eventually an adoptive family.

Abandonment vs. Safe Haven Laws

There is often some confusion about the difference between abandonment and safe haven laws. Safe haven laws eliminate the possibility of negligence charges when someone leaves an infant with the proper authorities. 

Abandonment laws, on the other hand, give primary parents or guardians a means to terminate the rights of a negligent parent. If a parent has had minimal or no contact with their children, or has not provided for their children financially or emotionally, they could lose their parental rights. 

What If the Child Is Too Old for Safe Haven?

Surrendering a child that does not fit the parameters for protection under the safe haven laws is a punishable offense. Acts like leaving a child unsupervised for any length of time, failing to provide adequate food/shelter/medical care, or harming them physically can all be considered child abuse and neglect

Punishments for these crimes range from 3 months to 35 years in jail or prison, depending on the type and severity of the abuse. For example, the minimum penalty for child neglect is a class 1 misdemeanor with 6 months of prison time, 3 years of probation, and a $2,500 fine. 

Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney You Can Trust

No matter the amount of time spent in prison, a felony can drastically change a person’s life. Felony convictions mean losing access to social services like SNAP benefits, and they make finding jobs and housing extremely difficult. If you are being charged with child abuse or neglect, you need a certified criminal defense attorney at your side.

Todd Coolidge has over 25 years of experience in the Arizona criminal justice system. Every case that comes through our offices is personally handled and overseen by Todd Coolidge himself, and he will give your case the attention that it deserves. You don’t have to face criminal charges alone—contact us today for a consultation.




Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (10/29/23). Photo by Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash.