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Child Abuse / Neglect

Domestic violence defense attorney Tallahassee, Florida

The maltreatment of children includes actions that put children at risk of imminent harm, which can range from physical, mental, and emotional pain. When a person is accused of harming a child in the state of Florida, they can face charges of child abuse or child neglect. According to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), there are more than 1 million children who are victims of abuse and neglect every year.

Allegations of child abuse and neglect should be taken seriously. These crimes typically fall under the category of domestic violence crimes. A criminal conviction surrounding the physical or mental abuse of a child can cause life-altering consequences for your future. You could be required to pay expensive fines, face imprisonment, and in some cases lose the ability to hold custody over your child.

However, it is possible that claims of child abuse/neglect can be brought on by false allegations— especially when one parent wants to secure an unfair advantage in a pending or anticipated child custody action. Many of these charges are brought with little evidence, sometimes based on the word of one person over the other.

Child Protective Investigators with the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) take an aggressive approach to gathering evidence and securing witness statements in alleged cases of child abuse/neglect. In Leon County, FL, and many other counties throughout North Florida’s Big Bend area, child protective investigators and detectives will seek to prosecute the crime if any mark is left on the child from any discipline or punishment other than a swat the buttocks.

Any person facing allegations of child abuse or child neglect should consider hiring a defense attorney for legal defenses and advice on how to proceed during this challenging time.

Attorney for Child Abuse Defense in Tallahassee, FL

Once you learn you or a loved one is the target of a false allegation of child abuse, never speak to any law enforcement officer or child protective investigator. Instead, invoke your right to remain silent until you have spoken to an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Contact an attorney at Pumphrey Law to find out more about what you might need to do today to protect yourself and your family against a false allegation of child abuse.

Pumphrey Law represents individuals charged with false or exaggerated allegations of child abuse throughout Tallahassee in Leon County and the surrounding areas of North Florida including Crawfordville in Wakulla County, Monticello in Jefferson County, Quincy in Gadsden County and Bristol in Liberty County. Call (850) 681-7777 to schedule a free consultation.

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Florida Child Abuse Information Center

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How Does Florida Define Child Abuse and Child Neglect?

Florida law establishes the definitions and penalties for crimes related to the abuse of children under Chapter 827. While child abuse and child neglect may seem similar, the two offenses have specific requirements for criminal prosecution.

Essentially, child abuse is either physical, mental, or emotional pain upon a minor; on the other hand, child neglect is a form of abuse in which the adult in charge of a minor has failed to provide them with the required care.

Under Florida Statute Section 827.01, a child is defined as any person under the age of 18 years old. A caregiver is defined under the same statute as a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.

Florida Statute Section 827.03 provides the following definitions:

Child abuse is defined as either:

  • The intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child;
  • An intentional act that is expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child; or
  • The active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results in or could be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.

Aggravated child abuse is defined as occurring when:

  • A person commits aggravated battery upon a child;
  • A person willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages a child; or
  • A person knowingly or willfully abuses a child, and in doing so causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child.

Example scenarios of child abuse include:

  1. A parent who physically abuses their child by hitting them with a belt and leaving bruises on their body;
  2. A caregiver who sexually abuses a child by coercing them into inappropriate sexual behavior with them; or
  3. A teacher who emotionally abuses a student by belittling and humiliating them in front of others, causing the child to feel worthless.

Cornell Law provides the following definitions relating to child neglect:

Culpable is defined to mean that a person is legally responsible for a crime, and negligence is defined as the failure to behave with the expected level of care that a reasonable person would have exercised under the same circumstances.

Child neglect is defined as either:

  • 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, which can include:
    • Food
    • Nutrition
    • Clothing
    • Shelter
    • Supervision
    • Medicine
    • Medical Services; or
  • A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.

Example scenarios of child neglect include:

  • A child’s parent fails to provide them with adequate food and shelter which causes the child to suffer from malnutrition;
  • A child’s caregiver fails to provide the child with necessary medical treatment which would cause the minor’s medical condition to worsen;
  • A parent leaves their child unattended in a car in the Florida heat for an extensive period, putting the minor at risk of harm.

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Aggravated Battery Constituting Child Abuse

For a crime of aggravated battery to be considered a form of child abuse under Florida Statute Section 827.03, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond all reasonable doubt:

  • The alleged offender committed a battery against the child by intentionally striking or touching the child against his or her will and in a manner that caused bodily harm to the child; and
  • In committing the battery on the child, the alleged offender knowingly or intentionally caused the child to suffer permanent disability, permanent disfigurement or great bodily harm or used a deadly weapon to commit the battery against the child.

Contact the defense attorneys with Pumphrey Law if you were recently charged with an aggravated battery case relating to child abuse.

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Penalties For Child Abuse and Neglect Offenses

The penalties for child abuse and child neglect criminal offenses are outlined under Florida Statute Section 827.03(2):

A defendant accused of child abuse without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to a child faces a third-degree felony.

A defendant accused of aggravated child abuse faces a first-degree felony.

A defendant accused of child neglect by willful or by culpable negligence without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement faces a third-degree felony.

A defendant accused of child neglect by willful or culpable negligence and in doing so causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement faces a second-degree felony.

Important: In cases of child neglect, the statute specifies that neglect can either be based on repeated conduct or a single incident or omission that results or could result in serious mental or physical harm to the child, including a substantial risk of death.

The following lays out the potential penalties for criminal conviction in Florida:

  • Third-degree felony: A conviction carries up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
  • Second-degree felony: A conviction carries up to a $10,000 fine and up to fifteen (15) years in prison.
  • First-degree felony: A conviction carries up to a $10,000 fine and up to thirty (30) years in prison.

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Additional Penalties for Child Abuse/Child Neglect Offenses

In addition to the penalties codified under Florida law, a parent, caregiver, or adult facing a conviction relating to child abuse/neglect should be aware of these additional potential consequences:

  • Loss of parental rights – Cases of alleged child abuse or neglect reported to DCF will require a court judge to determine the level of risk. If it’s determined that the child is at significant risk of harm, the parent or guardian may lose their rights.
  • Supervised visitation of child – Similar to above, a court may determine that the parent or guardian accused of child abuse/neglect can only have supervised visitation rights. This would mean the convicted adult would only be granted to see the child through court-appointed monitoring.
  • Difficulty finding employment or housing – A person holding a criminal record for child abuse/neglect may find difficulties in finding employment or housing.
  • Registering as a Sex Offender – If a child abuse/neglect case involves a sex crime or sexual nature, the convicted adult may be required to register as a sexual offender under FDLE’s registration.

If a child has been removed from the home due to allegations of abuse or neglect, the Department of Children and Families takes temporary custody of the child. If this has occurred, DCF should notify you of your initial court date. You also should verify any court dates through the Clerk of Court’s Office located at 301 S. Monroe St., Suite 100, Tallahassee, FL.

To receive help regarding child abuse and child neglect charges, consult with an experienced defense attorney in North Florida.

Defenses to Child Abuse and Neglect Charges

Even if you have already been formally arrested and charged with a criminal offense, keep in mind that you still have avenues of finding legal support. When you hire a knowledgeable defense attorney through Pumphrey Law, we can discuss if any of the following defenses are applicable to your case:

  • The defendant’s acts were not willful or negligent;
  • The defendant used reasonable efforts to protect the child from abuse or neglect;
  • The defendant was falsely accused by a former spouse; or
  • In cases of child neglect, the defendant is not considered a caregiver and therefore not responsible for the child’s wellbeing.

Keep in mind that the State takes crimes against children very seriously. If you have been accused of a child abuse or neglect crime, contact a defense attorney at your earliest convenience for a free consultation.

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Florida Child Abuse Resources

The following provides resources in Tallahassee and the surrounding Leon County area for services relating to child abuse/child neglect:

Child Abuse Prevention from Children’s Home Society for Leon County, FL
The Children’s Home Society provides in-home marriage enrichment education and relationship skills to adoptive parents both before and after the adoption process begins to help with a smooth transition of new children into the home.

  • Caring Couples Program for Leon County, FL
    1801 Miccosukee Commons Dr.
    Tallahassee, FL 32309
    850-921-0772 ext. 229

The Family Institute at Florida State University
Provides pre-marital education, parenting, and relationship skills for engaged couples, new parents, and students at FSU.

  • 97 South Woodward Ave.
    Tallahassee, FL 32306

Live the Life, Inc.
The Live the Life program provides relationship and parenting skills to parents and couples in Florida.

  • 2252 Killearn Center Blvd.
    Suite 1A
    Tallahassee, FL 32309

Volunteer to Prevent Child Abuse in Leon County, FL
Find a list of volunteer opportunities through the Big Bend areas of North Florida that help reduce incidents of child abuse and provide services to promote healthy families in our communities.

Facebook Page for North Central Division of Children’s Home Society of Florida
Stay connected with information important to criminal justice professional interested in preventing child abuse and defending those against overly aggressive prosecutions. The North Central Division of Children’s Home Society opened its office in Tallahassee in 1964 and provides services throughout the Big Bend region.

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Finding a Child Abuse Defense Lawyer in Tallahassee

Facing child abuse charges can be an intimidating process. The Tallahassee criminal defense lawyers at Pumphrey Law can help you fight the charges and get the best possible outcome in your case. Our attorneys understand the sensitive situation you are in, and we know your family is important. Our goal is to fight to have your charges lessened or dismissed, whether that be during pretrial conferences or in trial. When you hire Pumphrey Law, our attorneys will be with you every step of the way.

Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 for a free consultation.

Page Updated March 6, 2024

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