Some charges of child abuse in Florida are straightforward and obvious, and there's very little room for reasonable people to argue about the harm that has been done. But sometimes the accusations are made before the full circumstances of a child's injury are understood. If you are charged with child abuse in Florida, you must take these charges very seriously, even if you are certain that you will not ultimately be charged or convicted.
The Florida statutes describe three offenses against children: child abuse, aggravated child abuse, and child neglect. You'll need to understand your options for fighting the charges, including the consequences of agreeing to a plea deal for lesser charges, and what you may face if you are convicted as charged. You'll also want to know your chances of having the child abuse charges dismissed because the evidence is insufficient.
The Florida statutes define child abuse as:
“A willful or threatened act resulting in physical, mental or sexual injury or harm, causing or likely to cause impairment of physical, mental or emotional health.”
A child is defined as any unmarried person under the age of 18 who has not been emancipated by order of the court. The child victim does not have to be related to the defendant accused of the abuse and can be any minor victim.
Certain professionals are required by law to report suspected child abuse in Florida. This includes:
These reports generally go to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF), who may then conduct further investigation into the accusation. Neighbors and family members may also report suspicion of child abuse to the DCF, although they are not required by law to do so.
Because anyone may report suspicions of child abuse, including the child themselves, there are many cases where misconstrued situations turn into charges of child abuse. If you find yourself in this situation you should contact a Florida criminal defense attorney immediately to help avoid making the situation worse.
If you are found guilty of child abuse, your punishment can range from a third degree felony charge with up to five years in prison, to a second degree felony with prison time up to 15 years. The charges will vary depending on other circumstances involved, such as the extent of the abuse and your prior criminal history.
The penalties against you are not the only dangers you face when charges of child abuse in Florida are being brought against you. There is a chance your custody rights may be removed by court order. Your child may be placed in foster care or with another relative during your trial, and may not be returned if you are found guilty of child abuse or neglect.
Charges of child abuse in Florida are serious and the consequences of a wrongful accusation may hurt not only your criminal record, but also cause problems for you and your family. You should speak with a criminal defense attorney following your arrest to make sure you do not harm your case and learn more about your options for fighting the charges.