It’s hard to imagine that anyone could hurt a child, but the sad reality is that child abuse occurs every day. Sometimes this abuse is intentional, and sometimes it’s not, but the consequences can be devastating for the child. That is why the legal repercussions of aggravated child abuse are so severe.
If you have been accused of aggravated child abuse, it is important to understand the seriousness of the charges against you and what you can expect in terms of punishment if you are convicted. This blog post will define child abuse and examine the repercussions and penalties of aggravated child abuse.
What is Child Abuse Under Florida Law?
According to the Florida Statute, child abuse is when someone, a parent or not, intentionally inflicts physical and mental injury on a minor. It can also come through illegal acts of domestic violence or encouraging someone to harm a child.
In most cases, child neglect or endangerment can also fall under a child abuse crime. It is the act of failing or omitting the responsibility and obligation to provide a child with care, supervision, and necessary services essential to the minor’s survival and welfare.
Aside from that, a child abuse crime may include the following acts:
- Failure to report a child abuse case
- Unlawful abandonment of a minor
- Child pornography
- Leaving a child in a vehicle without supervision
- Sex crimes involving a child of 18 years and below
However, under Statute §39.01 (2), corporal punishments used as a disciplinary action are not forms of child abuse, given that the act does not cause severe harm to the child. For instance, spanking and slapping are not under this crime unless they are severely forceful and dangerous.
What Are The Elements of Aggravated Child Abuse?
Once the act of child abuse worsens, the crime will turn into aggravated child abuse, a first-degree felony in Florida. It is where someone unlawfully cages a minor, commits severe battery, or willingly punishes and mistreats a child.
Aggravated child abuse can cause permanent disability, extreme bodily harm, or disfigurement of the victim. You cannot consider this situation moderate because it further leads to broken bones, internal injuries, substantial bruising, severe wounds, and impairment of an organ’s function.
To deem an act as aggravated child abuse, these elements, aside from the abovementioned injuries, must also be present:
- The injured party must be under 18 years old.
- The defendant committed acts that caused extreme bodily and mental harm to the victim.
- The defendant encouraged another person to commit child abuse.
What Are The Penalties For Aggravated Child Abuse?
Since aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony, you will have to face harsher penalties due to the extreme violence. You can be imprisoned for up to 30 years or undergo probation for the same number of years. Furthermore, the court can also ask you to pay a fine of up to $10,000.
In addition, while aggravated child abuse falls on the 9th level of the offense severity ranking in Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, the judge must sentence you with a minimum of 48 months in prison.
Will Aggravated Child Abuse Conviction Terminate Parental Rights?
Once you are convicted of such crimes as child abuse, child neglect, and aggravated child abuse, you can lose your parental rights over your children. The court may no longer allow you to communicate or spend time with them and make decisions about their welfare and upbringing. In severe cases, the terminations are irreversible and permanent.
Aside from this, you may also face other legal consequences, depending on your case, such as the following:
- Possible separation from your children
- Taking and completing parenting classes
- Becoming subjected to further investigations
- Child sex crime charges, if the act involves child pornography
How Can You Defend Yourself From Aggravated Child Abuse Charges?
Considering the severity of the penalties against a person who committed aggravated child abuse, formulating a solid defense can be the best way to prevent such punishments. Fortunately, we’ve listed a few ways on how you can win your case, especially if you’ve been falsely accused.
If you are a parent or someone in loco parentis, you may have the right to take reasonable disciplinary actions against children or minors under your authority and control. Nevertheless, remember that this parental privilege can only become applied as a defense, given that the acts do not result in severe injuries, wounds, and mental trauma.
If you believe you have not done any illegal act against minors and children, you can argue in court that the plaintiff falsely accuses you of aggravated child abuse charges. These instances may appear when someone wants to make allegations for personal gain, coercion, manipulation, jealousy, and defamation.
No Evidence of Harm
Your neighbors or other people may think you are committing aggravated child abuse whenever they see you shout or spank your children. They can immediately report to the police, but you can build a solid defense by saying there is no evidence of actual or lasting harm to the child.
Also, you cannot be convicted if your children do not suffer bruises and injuries. You may argue that there was only disciplinary action but not physical abuse and domestic violence.
Incidental and unintentional acts of hurting a minor are also not justifiable causes for accusing someone of aggravated child abuse. These instances may include a child’s hand getting injured while closing the door, accidents in the kitchen, or other circumstances arising from engagement with a fellow child in school.
Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney Helps
Aggravated child abuse is a heinous crime that can result in long-term imprisonment, loss of parental rights, and other legal consequences. If you are falsely accused of this crime, remember to mount a solid defense with the help of an experienced criminal lawyer. Doing so will help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. By building substantial arguments backed with evidence, you can minimize your criminal charges, prove your innocence, or entirely dismiss your case.
Contact our criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm to discuss your case. With over 20 years of experience in criminal law we can help you fight your charges.
For a free consultation to discuss your case, contact us today.
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Clearwater, FL 33755