Child Abuse vs. Child Neglect – Florida Case Examples

October 5, 2023 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

Causing harm to a child is not taken lightly. The state of Florida has various laws to catch individuals accused of abusing or neglecting a child under the age of 18. Despite the two offenses sounding similar, child abuse and neglect are two separate offenses. It is important to differentiate between the two, as well as becoming familiar with the penalties for a violation of either.

Child abuse is considered the intentional infliction of pain to a minor. This can be physical, mental, or emotional abuse. Child abuse is also viewed as a form of domestic violence.

Child neglect is a form of abuse where the adult in charge of the minor fails to provide them with the care, supervision, or required services to maintain the child’s physical or mental health. In the state of Florida, neglect can be viewed as a single incident which resulted in harm to the child or based on the repeated conduct of neglect.

What’s the Difference Between Child Abuse and Child Neglect?

The following will provide the legislature and penalties for both child abuse and child neglect in Florida.

Florida Statute Section 827.03 provides the laws and penalties surrounding child abuse and neglect.

Section (2)(c) explains that a person who knowingly and willfully abuses a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement faces a third-degree felony.

Section (2)(d) explains that a person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement also faces a third-degree felony.

A conviction for a third-degree felony carries up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

However, there are more severe penalties for child abuse and neglect that results in serious injuries.

Section (2)(b) explains that a person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child and in doing so causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement faces a second-degree felony.

A conviction for a second-degree felony carries up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Section (2)(a) explains that a person who commits aggravated child abuse—defined as when a person willfully tortures, punishes, or abuses a child and in doing so causes great bodily harm or permanent disfigurement—faces a first-degree felony.

A conviction for a first-degree felony carries up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

Child Abuse Case Example

September 18, 2023 – Two women in Daytona Beach were arrested after being accused of abusing a baby inside a local beach bar. The local report stated that police responded to a disturbance call around 12:30 AM at the Coyote Ugly Saloon located at 512 Seabreeze Blvd.

Another patron in the bar claimed to witness Brianna Lafoe, 19, and Sierrah Newell, 20, throwing a baby into the air “like a toy” and then flipping him upside down while they were intoxicated. Lafoe was also accused of holding the young child by the ankles and “aggressively swinging” him over hard concrete.

The witness began recording the incident, which was met with screaming from both women. Newell allegedly threatened to hit bystanders with the crutches she was using at the time. Police were able to view the witness video to see the alleged abuse, resulting in the arrest of both women. Lafoe has been charged with battery and child abuse, and Newell has been charged with child abuse.

The report stated that after being checked out in a hospital, the baby had X-ray marks indicating signs of a broken arm.

The case above resulted in charges of child abuse due to the physical harm the two defendants were allegedly causing the baby. The X-ray also indicates a possible sign of child abuse, for inflicting physical pain on a minor. 

Child Neglect Case Example

September 15, 2023 – A Deltona couple is facing charges of child neglect after their 15-year-old deaf and mute daughter showed up to school with cockroaches in her backpack. A local report stated that deputies with the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call for assistance from a child protective investigator with Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).

During their investigation of the family’s home, they reported the conditions were “in complete disarray, with floors, walls, and furniture covered with mold, trash, decaying food, dirty clothes and cockroaches.” The family’s refrigerator contained standing water, mold, and more bugs. The two large household dogs had present feces on the floor and carpet. Additionally, the home’s air conditioning was broken, leaving the inside of the home around 85 degrees.

Police arrested Samantha Acker, the mother of the four children living in the home—ages ranging from 16, 15, 10, and 8. Her fiancé, Christopher Rounds, was also arrested. Both are being charged with four counts of child neglect. Rounds was also charged with resisting an arrest without violence. The four children have since been relocated to stay with family friends.

The case above resulted in charges of child neglect due to the lack of care and welfare the mother and her fiancé were providing for the children in their household. Having dirty, unhealthy living conditions that can impact a child’s physical and mental wellbeing can result in charges of child neglect.

Florida Department of Children and Families

The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) handles reports of alleged child abuse. A complaint of child abuse can be sent to The Office of Inspector General (OIG) through mail, fax, email, or online, where it will be received by the Investigations Section Intake Unit. Once a complaint is received, it is reviewed to determine the best method for handling the complaint, such as the following:

  • Sent to the program area for review and handling;
  • Sent to the program area for review and response to the OIG; or
  • Opened for investigation or management review.

A complaint that is opened as an investigation will be assigned to a field office investigator. The investigator is responsible for obtaining and reviewing all documentation, witness interviews, and writing the Investigative Report to be reviewed by the OIG. If the OIG determines that a criminal offense has been committed, then DCF is required to report and coordinate with the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

Being accused of child abuse or child neglect should be taken very seriously. Getting convicted of a child abuse or neglect case can result in harsh penalties that go beyond the statute-specific fines and imprisonment. In the second case example, DCF removed the children from the home and into the care of another family. While Pumphrey Law Firm does not cover the civil aspects of domestic violence cases, it is important to point out just how severe the punishment for these types of offenses can be.

If you or a loved one are being prosecuted in the state of Florida, consider hiring Pumphrey Law Firm to represent your criminal case. Our defense attorneys can provide you with guidance and insight, as well as making sure your rights are protected throughout the legal process. To receive a free consultation, contact our office at (850) 681-7777 or leave us an online message.

Written by Karissa Key

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