Child abuse is a type of domestic violence that involves the willful or negligent infliction of physical injury to a child or emotional harm to a child by depriving him or her of food, clothing, shelter or medical treatment. In Florida, the offense is classified as battery. If it is alleged that a person used a weapon to inflict injury, the accused will face enhanced penalties and charges. If you have questions about accusations against you, contact a child abuse defense attorney in St. Petersburg from Goldman Wetzel.
The Difference between Child Abuse and Neglect
Child Abuse is viewed as an overt act meant to injure a child. It involves intentionally inflicting physical or mental injury upon a child; an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to physically or mentally harm a child; or the active encouragement of another to physically or mentally injure a child. [Fla. Stat. § 827.03 (b)] The charge for this offense is a third-degree felony and is punishable by as much as five years in prison and up a $5,000 fine [Fla. Stat. §775.082 – 084].
The more serious offense of aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony and is charged when the suspect commits aggravated battery on a child; maliciously or willfully tortures, punishes, cages a child; or when the suspect willfully abuses, seriously harms, permanently disables or disfigures a child. The penalty for aggravated child abuse is up to 30 years in prison and up to $10,000 fine [Fla. Stat. §775.082 – 084]. If the child dies at the hands of his or her abuser, it is a capital crime and could bring the death penalty: [Fla. Stat. § 921.141 (h), (i)].
On the other hand, child neglect is viewed as a crime of omission or oversight that involves any of the following:
- A parent or caregiver fails to provide a child with the care, supervision and services associated with good physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine and medical services that are reasonably viewed as essential to the child’s well-being.
- A caregiver does not make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect or being exploited by another person.
- Either repeated or a single negligent act that results – or could be reasonably expected to result – in serious physical or mental injury, or significant risk of death to a child.
Depending on the degree of injury to the child, the suspect can be charged with either a third-degree (five years/$5,000 fine) or second-degree felony (up to 15 years imprisonment and $10,000 fine) [Fla. Stat. §775.082 – 084].
Child abuse receives a lot of attention by lawmakers, and the press aggressively covers these cases. Both can work against defendants at times, beginning with the fact that child abuse allegations can be erroneous – especially if other domestic issues are involved (divorce, child custody).
In other instances, inadequate law enforcement investigations could lead to mistaken child abuse or neglect charges, especially when it comes to interviewing the alleged victims properly. This is why it is important to choose a defense attorney who is intimately familiar with the many variables that can seriously impact child abuse or neglect charges and a lawyer who also has the ability to investigate effectively apart from law enforcement.
If you are being investigated or were arrested for child abuse or neglect, contact the defense attorneys at Goldman Wetzel in St. Petersburg, Tampa, or Bradenton for a free case evaluation and to protect your rights.