BILL NUMBER: S1510
TITLE OF BILL :
An act to amend the penal law, the criminal procedure law, the vehicle
and traffic law, the estates, powers and trusts law, the executive law
and the social services law, in relation to establishing the offense
of aggravated murder of a child; to amend the penal law, the criminal
procedure law, the vehicle and traffic law and the executive law, in
relation to establishing the offenses of aggravated abuse of a child
in the third degree, aggravated abuse of a child in the second degree,
aggravated abuse of a child in the first degree and aggravated
manslaughter of a child; to amend the penal law, the criminal
procedure law, the vehicle and traffic law and the executive law, in
relation to establishing the offense of aggravated endangering the
welfare of a child; to amend the social services law, in relation to
aggravated manslaughter of a child; to repeal subdivision 5 of section
125.25 of the penal law relating to the murder of a person under 14
years of age while in the course of committing certain sex offenses;
and to amend the social services law, in relation to requiring the
recording of calls to the statewide central register of child abuse
and maltreatment made by persons required by law to report child
abuse, requiring the office of children and family services to
investigate the prior history of the subject of a report of child
abuse or maltreatment and requiring such office to inform a caller if
a report cannot be taken; requiring increased scrutiny and the
presence of law enforcement during the investigation of a child abuse
or maltreatment report with prior history of such reports; and to
amend the family court act, in relation to the definition of the term
To enact Erin's Law and establish increased protections for our
society's most vulnerable children.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS :
This legislation establishes the crimes of aggravated murder of a
child, aggravated manslaughter of a child, aggravated abuse of a child
in the first degree, and aggravated abuse of a child in the second
degree. The penalty for aggravated murder of a child shall be life
imprisonment without parole, and the penalty for a conviction of
attempted aggravated murder of a child shall be at least twenty years
but not more than forty years imprisonment.
This legislation establishes the crime of aggravated manslaughter of a
child as a class B violent felony offense, and this legislation
establishes the the crime of aggravated abuse of a child in the first
degree as a class C violent felony. Finally, this bill established the
crime of aggravated abuse of a child in the second degree as a class D
This legislation reclassifies the crime of reckless assault of a child
by a child day care provider to the crime of aggravated abuse of a
child in the third degree, a class E felony. In addition, this
legislation establishes the crimes of aggravated abuse of a child in
the second degree (a class D felony) and the crime of aggravated abuse
of a child in the first degree (a class C felony).
This legislation amends section 4-1.6 of the Estates, Powers and
Trusts Law to disqualify a joint tenant from inheriting if he or she
is convicted of the crime of aggravated murder of a child and the
victim is another joint tenant.
This legislation amends the Social Services Law to improve and
modernize the statewide central register of child abuse and
maltreatment. It requires reports made to this service to be recorded
and maintained for two years.
This legislation also amends the Social Services Law to require law
enforcement personnel to accompany child protective investigators to a
child's home when two or more reports have been received by a county
Department of Social Services within six months.
This bill amends section 420 of the Social Services Law to establish a
class E felony for any person who fails to report two or more
instances of child abuse within two years.
This legislation updates the definition of "neglected child" within
the Family Court Act. The last significant changes to this section
occurred many years ago, and caseworkers, law enforcement, attorneys
and judges need a new, more comprehensive definition to properly
address the needs of the children of New York State. The Family Court
Act currently requires that a child's "physical, mental or emotional
condition" be "impaired" or in "imminent danger of becoming impaired"
before the child can be considered a "neglected child." This high
standard hinders those who seek to protect children from a dangerous
living situation. The new definition strikes a better balance for the
protection of children when weighted against the competing interests
of parental rights.
In addition, this legislation updates the Family Court Act by imposing
new requirements upon parents for certain things they must supply or
are required to provide their child or children with. These
requirements -- which include a warm living environment, a sanitary
living environment, psychological and/or psychiatric care if it can be
afforded, emotional support, moral supervision, and sustenance -- are
supported by current caselaw.
Finally, the Family Court Act definition of "neglected child" is
amended to require parents to keep children free from disease and not
in a state of diminished physical growth. Like the other changes to
this section, this change is also supported by caselaw.
Erin Maxwell, an 11 year old Oswego County girl, was found on August
29, 2008 fatally injured in her home. Erin later died at University
Hospital. The Onondaga County Medical Examiner stated that Erin died
of asphyxiation and also suffered sexual trauma.
Erin's stepbrother, Alan Jones, was later charged with her murder. Her
father and stepmother were each charged with six counts of endangering
the welfare of a child. Erin's life, like her death, was tragic. Erin
lived in deplorable, filthy, and inhuman conditions. Her father,
Lindsey Maxwell, admitted to authorities that the family kept "Erin
locked in her bedroom." The Maxwell home was full of about one hundred
cats and caged poultry. Officials at Erin's school frequently smelled
cat urine on Erin's clothes. Garbage was routinely piled on the porch
of the Maxwell house. Erin was fed little by her family and was
frequently hungry at school.
Oswego County Department of Social Services made three visits to the
Maxwell home. The final visit was in 2006. Caseworkers determined that
no problems existed in the Maxwell home and that the amount of care
given to Erin was adequate. The system failed Erin Maxwell. This
failure led to her very sad death. Through a number of steps, Erin's
Law will help to see that no child in this state is ever forced to
exist in conditions similar to Erin's. This legislation increases the
penalties for those who commit certain crimes against children,
requires better records of calls made alleging child abuse and
neglect, enhances the penalties for those who fail to report child
abuse or maltreatment on multiple occasions, and updates the
definition of "neglected child" to better serve the interests of New
York State's most vulnerable children.
This legislation cannot help Erin Maxwell, but it can affect the lives
of thousands of other New York children in similar situations.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY :
S.8782 - 2008
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS :
LOCAL FISCAL IMPLICATIONS :
EFFECTIVE DATE :
Immediately, provided that section 24 and 25 shall take effect 180
days after this act shall have become a law, certain portions of
section 18 shall take effect in the same manner as section 20 of
chapter 472 of the laws of 2008, and certain portions of section 24
shall be deemed repealed on the same date and manner as section 1 of
chapter 574 of the laws of 2008.