Child Abuse & Neglect
Child Abuse is defined as intentionally inflicting physical or mental injury to a child under the age of 18. If no great bodily harm or permanent injury is caused, Child Abuse is a Third Degree Felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Where the physical or mental injury to the child results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement, this may be charged as Aggravated Child Abuse, which is a First Degree Felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. It is also Aggravated Child Abuse to willfully torture, maliciously punish, or willfully and unlawfully cage a child under the age of 18.
Under the law of Florida, a parent or a person acting as a parent cannot be charged with simple battery against their child. The crime must either rise to the level of child abuse, or it is not illegal. This is because Florida does allow a parent to use corporal punishment in the reasonable discipline of a child. It is only where the parent's conduct is motivated by malice, where the punishment is excessive, cruel, or merciless, or where serious injury results, that a person is subject to criminal prosecution, regardless of whether or not that person is the child's parent.
Where a person fails to provide a child with care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child's physical and mental health, he may be charged with Child Neglect. This includes not providing a child with food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services.
In order to be criminally responsible for a child, a person must be the child's "caregiver" which is defined by Florida law as a parent, an adult household member, or some other person who is responsible for the child's welfare.
If the neglect does not cause great bodily harm or permanent injury, Child Neglect is a Third Degree Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. If the neglect results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child, Child Neglect may be charged as a Second Degree Felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
It is extremely important to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney when a person is arrested for child abuse or child neglect. In addition to the serious possible criminal penalties that may result, a person is also subject to review by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). He may be required to comply with a DCF case plan that could include substance abuse treatment, parenting classes, and supervised visitation with the child or children. A qualified defense attorney can explain the criminal implications of the charges as well as explain the DCF case plan and how to best navigate the process.