Learn about child abuse and neglect offenses in Florida, including the definitions, statutes and types of neglect and abuse, as well as the penalties and sentences that defendants face after being charged with this offense.
Florida child abuse laws aim to protect children from serious harm, but unfortunately many abuse allegations are unfounded or exaggerated. Given the sensitive nature of these cases, child neglect and child abuse are felony offenses whose conviction can result in severe punishments. Hence, you might need the help of an experienced child abuse lawyer in Florida.
Child abuse charges can throw your family into major upheaval. A conviction means harsh ramifications, including imprisonment, fines, and separation from your children. If you are facing an investigation by Department of Children and Families (DCF) or charges of child abuse or neglect, you should seek legal counsel immediately.
With over 30 years of combined experience handling cases for both the prosecution and the defense, the criminal defense attorneys at Goldman Wetzel understand the mechanics of child abuse cases. If you have questions about your charges or are looking for legal representation, contact our office to book a free consultation.
Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect in Florida
In Florida, child abuse means to intentionally inflict physical or mental injury to a minor. Child neglect is a form of abuse that consists of omitting or failing to provide a child with supervision, care, or services necessary to the minor’s physical or mental welfare. These offenses are charged as felonies.
Child abuse is a form of domestic violence that consists of inflicting physical or emotional harm intentionally to a child under 18 years of age. According to the Florida Statute §827.03, a person can also face child abuse charges if he or she encourages another person to inflict a physical or mental injury upon a minor.
Even though they might be confused, child abuse and child neglect are slightly different offenses. Florida considers child neglect a caregiver failing or omitting to provide a child with the care, services and supervision to keep the minor’s physical and mental well-being such as food, clothing, medical attention, and shelter.
Neglect or child endangerment also includes failing to make a reasonable effort to protect the child from abuse, neglect or exploitation by others. Note that in Florida, neglect may be based on repeated conduct or a single incident that resulted, or could have resulted, in serious physical or mental harm, or a substantial risk of death, to a child.
Some of the most common cases of child abuse, child neglect and child endangerment that Goldman Wetzel handles include:
- Child abuse and aggravated abuse
- Child neglect
- Failure to report child abuse or neglect
- Unlawful desertion of a child
- Child pornography
- Leaving a minor in a car or without adult supervision
- Sex crimes involving a minor
What is aggravated child abuse?
In Florida, a person commits aggravated child abuse if he or she unlawfully cages a child, commits aggravated battery on a minor or willingly mistreats or punishes a child in a manner that causes great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement to the victim. This offense is considered a first-degree felony.
An important element of aggravated child abuse is great bodily harm. As the term suggests, the injuries produced in this situation are not moderate. Examples of great bodily harm might include broken bones, substantial bruising, internal injuries, impairment of function of a bodily member or organ, and severe wounds.
Determining whether an injury constitutes great bodily harm depends on the judge.
Is slapping a child considered abuse in Florida?
According to the statute § 39.01(2), corporal punishments as a disciplinary action are not considered child abuse as long as the punishment does not result in harm to the minor. Hence, spanking or slapping a child is not abuse as long as the use of force is reasonable.
In Florida, parents have the legal authority to reasonably discipline their children. If you were wrongly accused of child abuse because you exercised your parental authority to discipline your child, our team can fight to protect your rights and your family. Contact our child abuse lawyers for help.
Penalties for Child Abuse & Child Neglect in Florida
Florida classifies child abuse and child neglect as felonies. If there are no aggravating factors, child abuse, and child neglect are considered third-degree felonies. Punishments can result in up to 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000. More severe forms of child abuse and neglect will make penalties more severe.
The use of extreme violence could increase your penalties. In other words, if the minor suffers great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement or disability, you could face harsher punishments. In Florida, the penalties for child abuse and child neglect include:
|Offense||Category||Maximum imprisonment||Maximum fine|
|Child abuse||3rd degree felony||5 years||$5,000|
|Child neglect without aggravating factors||3rd degree felony||5 years||$5,000|
|Child neglect great bodily harm||2nd degree felony||15 years||$10,000|
|Child abuse great bodily harm||1st degree felony||30 years||$10,000|
Depending on the characteristics of your case, you might face other consequences such as:
- Being subjected to a thorough investigation
- Possible separation from your children
- Take and complete parenting classes
If you are convicted for child abuse or received a withhold of adjudication, you will not be eligible to seal your record in Florida. In addition to having a criminal record, if you have a divorce or a child custody claim, these charges might affect the outcome of these types of claims as well as other areas of your life.
The sooner you retain reputable and effective legal representation, the more time your lawyers will have to build a strong defense for you. If you are facing charges for child abuse or child neglect, contact our defense attorneys at Goldman Wetzel to book a free consultation.
Defenses Against Child Abuse or Neglect
Given the sensitivity of the offense, crimes against children are harshly prosecuted in Florida. Nevertheless, in many cases these accusations are the result of a misunderstanding that can have severe consequences for you.
There are several defenses that can result in a case dismissal or mitigated charges. In addition to compiling supporting evidence to negate your charges, some of the defense strategies that the criminal lawyers at Goldman Wetzel might use include:
- False accusations.
- Insufficient evidence of abuse.
- Parental right to discipline (parents’ aforementioned right to reasonably discipline their children).
- The defendant did not expect their actions to cause injury.
- The harm was accidental, e.g., accidentally closing your child’s hand in a door, or resulted from other circumstances, e.g., an altercation with another child at school.
Defining the best legal strategy depends on the specific circumstances of your case. If you want to explore a pertinent defense for your situation, you should speak to a child abuse lawyer.
Contact a Child Neglect Lawyers in Florida
Child abuse charges can threaten everything that is important to you. In addition to affecting your family, these accusations could result in a conviction including prison time and steep fines. With your future and personal liberty at stake, you might want to enlist the help of an aggressive criminal lawyer.
Goldman Wetzel represents clients facing charges for child abuse and other criminal offenses in St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Clearwater, Tampa, Sarasota, and surrounding areas. Contact us today at 727-828-3900.
If you are facing charges for child neglect or child abuse, you should have an experienced attorney on your side. Speak to the Goldman Wetzel child neglect lawyers today or call our office to schedule a free consultation: (727) 828-3900.