In Florida, child abuse is a serious crime, and victims of child abuse may suffer lifelong physical and emotional consequences. If you or a loved one have been abused, it is important that you contact an experienced family law attorney who can defend your rights.Child Abuse
In Florida, a person commits child abuse when he or she:
- Intentionally inflicts physical or mental injury on a child;
- Intentionally commits an act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child; or
- Actively encourages another to commit a physical or mental injury on a child.
A mental injury is any injury to the intellectual capacity of a child that impairs his or her ability to function normally. The expected behavior and performance of a child is usually determined by expert testimony.Aggravated Child Abuse
An act of violence against a child is considered aggravated child abuse when the perpetrator:
- Commits aggravated battery on a child;
- Willfully tortures, cages, or wrongfully punishes a child; or
- Causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement, after knowingly abusing a child.
A person neglects a child when he or she is a caregiver to a child and:
- Fails to ensure the child’s physical and mental health by providing access to food, clothing, shelter, and medicine; or
- Fails to make a reasonable effort to protect the child from abuse or neglect at the hands of another person.
Abusive conduct does not have to be repeated in order to constitute neglect.Penalties
If the abuse does not result in bodily harm, the crime will be charged as a third degree felony, which is punishable by a five-year prison sentence and the mandatory payment of a $5,000 fine. However, if bodily injury does occur, the offender will be charged with aggravated child abuse, which is a first degree felony and is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and the payment of a $10,000 fine. A person who neglects a child, but who causes no bodily harm commits a third degree felony. Neglect of a child that causes bodily harm or disability, however, is a second degree felony, and carries a potential prison sentence of 15 years and the payment of a $10,000 fine.Mandatory Reporting
Members of some professions are required by law to report to the Department of Children and Family Services if they know of or have reasonable cause to suspect neglect or abuse of a child. This includes:
- Medical professionals;
- Spiritual practitioners;
- Social workers;
- Law enforcement officers; and
Members of these professions are required to make a report even if the suspected abuser is not a caregiver or parent of the child. Mandatory reporting duties also extend to instances of suspected sexual abuse, or when the offender is a juvenile.
A court can charge anyone over the age of 18 years, who lives in the same house as a child who is a victim of child abuse, and who knowingly fails to report the abuse with a third degree felony. However, exceptions will be made if the court finds that the person is a victim of domestic violence or there are other mitigating factors.
Failing to report, prohibiting another person from making a report, or making a false report of child abuse, is a third degree felony.
If you or your child have been the victim of abuse, having the advice of an attorney with family law experience is vital. Please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free consultation.