If you are charged with an accusation of child abuse, the consequences will have a significant impact on your life. The charge can lead to a lengthy jail sentence, a criminal record, and a loss of your job.
Your relationships will be impacted. You may be prohibited from living with your children or receiving visitation rights. You may also have to register as a sex offender. If you are found guilty, you may face a lengthy prison sentence and a lifetime of consequences. It is important to know your rights and to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side if you are accused of child abuse. It is important to contact an attorney promptly. An attorney can help you navigate the legal system and protect your rights.
How is Child Abuse Defined?
Under the legislation in Florida, child abuse is defined as a deliberate act that causes or reasonably may cause bodily and mental impairment to a child. A person who urges another person to conduct certain crimes may also be prosecuted with the same offense if the other person actually commits them. In this context, the definition of a child is somebody less than 18 years old.
A person commits aggravated child abuse when they willfully torture, maliciously punish, cage a child, or enact severe bodily harm to a child.
Child neglect falls under the same law. It’s defined as when a caregiver fails to provide care, supervision, and services to a child which would protect their physical and mental health. Child neglect also occurs when a caregiver neglects to protect their child from abuse from another person.
Penalties for Child Abuse
Child abuse is classified as a third-degree felony, which carries a potential sentence of up to five years in jail, five years of probation, and a fine of $5,000.00.
Aggravated child abuse is classified as a first-degree felony and has a possible sentence of 30 years in jail, 30 years of probation, and a fine of $10,000.
Child neglect that does not result in significant physical injury, severe impairment, or permanent deformity is considered a third-degree felony and is punished by up to five years in jail, five years of probation, and a fine of $5,000.00.
Child neglect that does result in significant physical injury, severe impairment, or permanent deformity is considered a second-degree felony and is punished by up to 15 years in jail, 15 years of probation, and a fine of $10,000.00.
If you are convicted of child abuse or neglect, you cannot have your record sealed or expunged. This means that these crimes will be on your permanent record forever. It’s crucial to seek the help of a criminal defense attorney, so they can develop your case and provide the best legal services.
Which Acts Count as Abuse?
In Florida, the laws on child abuse have been drafted to cover a wide range of acts intentionally carried out against a child. The impact can be either physical or mental. With mental abuse, it can be far more difficult to discover and prove. Teachers are frequently the first to pick up a child who may be being abused, typically by noticing bruises and injuries. Trained teachers may also be able to recognize signs of mental abuse as well.
Common actions are considered child abuse in Florida:
- Child pornography
- Leaving a child in a car unattended
- Failing to report child neglect or abuse
- Committing a violent act in front of a child
- Spankings that leave bruises on the body apart from the buttocks
What Does the Prosecution Have to Prove in a Child Abuse Case?
The prosecution must prove a couple of things beyond a reasonable doubt. These include:
- The defendant intentionally carried out actions that resulted in physical pain or mental harm to the child.
- The defendant carried out some action that potentially could cause injury to the child (whether physical or mental).
- The defendant encouraged a third party to carry out some action that could cause damage to the child.
Common Defenses in a Child Abuse Case
Common Defenses that a criminal defense attorney will use are:
- There are factual disputes of who perpetrated the crime
- The defendant did not act in a manner that would reasonably cause harm to the child
- The defendant’s actions were not intentional
- The allegations are false
- The defendant did everything they could to prevent harm from coming to the child
A false accusation of child abuse can put your parental rights and potentially your custody of your children in jeopardy. It is critical to get as much of a head start on the circumstance as is reasonably achievable by enlisting the services of an accomplished attorney. You do not want to wait until a dependency case is really launched so that the court may assign counsel for you. This counsel may not be the most effective advocate for you and you do not want to take that chance.
It is best to talk with a criminal defense attorney so they can develop a case with defenses that best suit your situation.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney
At Hanlon Law, our attorneys defend people accused of an extensive range of crimes, including those involving the abuse of children. We understand the intimate and sensitive nature of child abuse accusations, and we work with care and diligence to ensure your rights are defended.
If you or someone you know has been accused of child abuse or neglect, contact our legal team today for a free consultation.
600 Cleveland St #1100
Clearwater, FL 33755