Child abuse and neglect constitute serious felony offenses and result in severe penalties if convicted. While Florida’s harsh laws and penalties serve the purpose of deterring abuse and protecting children, many child abuse accusations are unfounded or exaggerated.
Any parent or caretaker that finds themselves facing a Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigation or charges of child abuse or neglect should seek legal counsel immediately. For aggressive legal defense and help preserving what matters most to you, contact Goldman Wetzel and speak to one of our child abuse defense lawyers in Sarasota, FL today. Call 941-405-5193 for a free, private consultation.
Types of Child Abuse Cases Goldman Wetzel Accepts
The Goldman Wetzel team is dedicated to defending the rights and protecting the best interests of people facing all types of criminal charges. With more than three decades of combined experience, attorneys Summer Goldman and Maribeth Wetzel have honed the strategies necessary to take on even the toughest child abuse cases in Sarasota and throughout Florida.
We can handle any of the following types of child abuse or neglect cases:
- General child abuse and aggravated child abuse
- Child neglect
- Failure to report child abuse or neglect
- Unlawful desertion of a child
- Child pornography
- Leaving a child in a car alone
- Sexual performance by a child
- Solicitation of a minor or traveling to meet a minor
- Other sex crimes involving a minor
Florida’s Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect
Florida Statute § 827.03 provides the following definitions:
1. Purposefully causing a child physical or mental injury;
2. A deliberate act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or psychological harm to a child; or
3. Encouraging another person to commit any action that results or “could reasonably be expected to result in” physical or psychological harm to a child.
1. “A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or
2. A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.”
Unfortunately, these definitions are broad, making it very easy for the state to press charges against a parent. The statutes provide no insight into what actions and injuries constitute abuse. According to the statutes, any action that causes physical harm can legally qualify as abuse, even it is just a small scrape or red mark.
Penalties for Child Abuse in Florida
Florida classifies child abuse and neglect into several categories, depending on the factors involved. The penalties hinge on the level of the offense:
- Child abuse without great bodily harm: Third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
- Child abuse with great bodily harm (known as aggravated child abuse): First-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Child neglect without great bodily harm: Third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
- Child neglect with great bodily harm: Second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Unwarranted Child Abuse Accusations
Many child abuse accusations are groundless or inflated. Investigations often arise when:
- An ill-formed neighbor, teacher, or passerby calls DCF without knowing all the facts of a case;
- Vengeful exes make false accusations in a heated divorce to gain leverage; or
- Discipline or roughhousing accidentally goes too far (e.g., you are wrestling with your child when you accidentally pin his arm and break it).
Whatever the case may be, parents and caretakers facing child abuse charges should exercise their rights to counsel and quickly begin working with an attorney to defend against the charges. Having backgrounds in both prosecution and defense, our attorneys know the ins and outs of these types of sensitive cases and will craft a comprehensive plan to fight for you from onset to completion. Contact us to learn how we may be able to help.
Defenses to Child Abuse and Neglect
When you begin working with Goldman Wetzel, our team will investigate the facts, speak to witnesses, collect evidence, and start developing a personalized, robust defense for your case.
Common defenses to child abuse include:
- Parental right to discipline: Referred to as parental privilege, parents have the right to discipline their children in Florida, and this includes spanking.
- False accusations
- The case does not meet the definition of abuse, e.g., the act was not intentional, or it did not result in harm.
- Insufficient evidence
Ways Our Child Abuse Defense Lawyers Can Help
We know how much your family and freedom mean to you. When you enlist in our help, Summer and Maribeth will quickly spring into action and begin working full force on your behalf.
- Investigate your case and attempt to identify errors or gaps in the prosecution’s file;
- Explain in no-nonsense terms what you are up against and what you can expect during the court process;
- Gather evidence that supports your case;
- Brainstorm the most effective strategy for your particular circumstances and get your feedback on an approach;
- Come well prepared to your hearings, ready to present your side of the story articulately and convincingly;
- Keep you up to date on your case; and
- Continue work towards the best possible resolution, be it a dismissal, acquittal, plea bargain, or reduced charges/penalties.