Child Abuse / Neglect
St. Petersburg Child Abuse Lawyer
If you have been arrested for Child Abuse or Neglect in the Tampa Bay Area, including St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas County, Tampa, Hillsborough County, or any of the surrounding counties, contact the Morris Law Firm, P.A., St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer, for specific information about defending Child Abuse or Child Neglect cases.
What is Child Abuse / Neglect?
Often, parents are accused of child abuse or child neglect in St. Petersburg for disciplining their child or engaging in corporal punishment. Law enforcement officers will generally investigate any reports of marks, broken bones or bruises on a child, or reports of an adult hitting, spanking, slapping, kicking or beating a child. Marks and bruises alone are not sufficient evidence for child abuse allegations. Parents are usually shocked to find they are the subject of a criminal investigation for child abuse or child neglect.
According to Florida Statutes § 39.01(2), abuse is defined as any threatening or willful act resulting in any mental, physical or sexual injury or harm that is likely to cause or actually causes the child’s emotional, mental or physical health to be significantly impaired. This definition of abuse can include any act by a parent or guardian or any failure to act by a parent or guardian.
A child is defined under Florida law as any unmarried person who is under the age of 18 and who is not emancipated (Fla. Stat. § 39.01(12)).
Florida Law on Child Abuse:
According to Fla. Stat. § 827.03(1), an individual can be charged with child abuse if they knowingly or willfully:
- Intentionally inflict physical or mental injury on a child;
- Intentionally act in a way that could reasonably be expected to cause physical or mental injury to a child; or
- Actively encourage any person to commit an act that results in or could reasonably be expected to cause physical or mental injury to a child.
An individual can be charged with aggravated child abuse under Fla. Stat. § 827.03(2) if they:
- Commit aggravated battery on a child;
- Willfully torture, maliciously punish or willfully and unlawfully cage a child; or
- Knowingly or willfully abuse a child and cause great bodily harm, or permanent disfigurement or disability to the child.
Physical injury is defined under Fla. Stat. § 39.01(56) as any temporary or permanent disfigurement, death or impairment of any body part.
Mental injury is defined under section 39.01(42) of the Florida Statutes as any injury to the psychological or intellectual capacity of a child shown by the child’s impairment in their ability to function within the normal range of behavior and performance.
Florida Law on Child Neglect:
Under Fla. Stat. § 827.03(3), a child’s caregiver can be charged with neglecting a child if they:
Fail or omit to providing a child with care, supervision and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health. These services can include:
- Medicine, and/or
- Medical Services.
Additionally, a child’s caregiver can be charged with neglect of a child if they fail to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect or exploitation by another person.
Criminal charges for neglect of a child can be based on a single occurrence or repeated conduct.
The penalties for child abuse and child neglect are defined in sections 775.082, 775.083 and 775.084 of the Florida Statutes. The basic statutory punishments can vary, depending on whether the alleged offender has a previous criminal conviction and whether bodily harm, disfigurement or disability occurred from the abuse.
- An individual charged with neglect of a child or child abuse that does not result in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement can be convicted of a felony of the third-degree offense, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $5,000.
- An individual charged with aggravated child abuse can be convicted of a felony of the first-degree offense, which is punishable by a prison sentence up to 30 years and/or a fine up to $10,000.
- An individual charged with neglect of a child that results in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement can be convicted of a felony of the second-degree offense, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Issues / Potential Defenses:
The state prosecutor has the burden of proof to prove an individual who allegedly engaged in child abuse or child neglect committed every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This burden is very difficult to meet, as there can be a variety of defenses or mitigating factors that may create doubt in the prosecutor’s case. A few of these defenses and factors can include:
- Constitutional Violations;
- The Offense Was Not Willful;
- The Offense Was Not Intentional;
- The Offense Was Not Committed with Knowledge;
- Mistaken Identity;
- Insufficient Evidence to Prove the Criminal Charges;
- Law Enforcement Procedural Violations;
- The Parent Was Only Disciplining the Child; and/or
- Failure to Properly Give Miranda Warnings by Law Enforcement.
What To Do Next:
If you have been arrested:
1. Don’t speak to the police – ask to have an attorney present.
2. Don’t give a written statement – again, ask to have an attorney present.
3. Contact an attorney immediately.
4. Collect and document your own evidence.
Morris Law Firm, P.A. | Tampa Bay Child Abuse Attorney
If you have been arrested for Child Abuse, contact a St. Petersburg family violence lawyer to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case. Call the Morris Law Firm, P.A. at (727) 388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our online form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation. The Morris Law Firm, P.A. can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending alleged domestic violence offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL community.