By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
On Tuesday, the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee introduced a bill that could criminalize making false reports to CPS.
Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, proposed the bill, saying false reports to child protective services often happen in custody battles.
It’s unclear how often false reports of child abuse in divorce proceedings happen in Idaho. Scott did not provide statistics on the claim.
Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, will sponsor the bill in the Senate if it passes the House. Herndon spoke at the print hearing.
“If CPS is weaponized, especially in a custody dispute, right now the only remedy for parents is to file a lawyer at their own expense and file a civil action,” Herndon said. “Right now, if the parent doesn’t have any money it is unlikely that there is any remedy available to them in Idaho code.”
If passed and signed by the governor, the bill would mean any person who reports allegations to CPS that they know to be false could be subject to civil liability and/or a misdemeanor criminal penalty. The criminal punishment would be up to three months in jail, or if damages are pursued, the liability could be damages of up to $2,500.
Rep. David Cannon, R-Blackfoot, questioned if Scott had any idea of how much the change might cost, because anyone charged with a crime who is indigent is legally entitled to a public defender. He asked for more information about the cost of adding the crime to the books.
Chairman Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, also expressed concern about the expense, saying it would certainly create a cost on local government to provide defense.
The bill still needs a full hearing to move forward.