If you have been arrested for Child Abuse or Neglect in Seminole County including Altamonte Springs, Lake Mary, Casselberry, Longwood, Winter Springs, Sanford or any of the surrounding counties, contact Seminole County child neglect attorney Kevin J. Pitts. Mr. Pitts is a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Sanford that can provide you with specific information about fighting a Child Abuse or Child Neglect charge.
What is Child Abuse or Child Neglect?
We frequently see parents accused of child abuse or child neglect in Seminole County for disciplining their child or engaging in corporal punishment. This frequently happens when a nosey neighbor or someone in a public place observes corporal punishment. Some people disagree with corporal punishment. That is their right but it doesn’t make it illegal to discipline your kids. We also see child neglect cases when a child is momentarily left alone or sneaks out of the house. If a child is not taken to a hospital and that has a negative impact on their health a prosecutor can play arm chair quarterback and bring charges for child neglect. This can happen even if it was an honest mistake by loving parents. This usually happens when a serious medical issue is not recognized by a parent. Once the parents take the child to the hospital and it comes out that the illness was observed hours before a report can be made. Law enforcement officers will generally investigate any reports of marks, broken bones or bruises on a child, or reports of an adult hitting, spanking, slapping, kicking or beating a child. Marks and bruises alone are not sufficient evidence for child abuse allegations. Parents are usually shocked to find they are the subject of a criminal investigation for child abuse or child neglect.
According to Florida Statutes § 39.01(2), abuse is defined as any threatening or willful act resulting in any mental, physical or sexual injury or harm that is likely to cause or actually causes the child’s emotional, mental or physical health to be significantly impaired. This definition of abuse can include any act by a parent or guardian or any failure to act by a parent or guardian. A child under Florida law as any unmarried person who is under 18 years of age and who is not emancipated (Fla. Stat. § 39.01(12)).
Florida Child Abuse & Child Neglect Law:
According to Fla. Stat. § 827.03(1), an individual can be charged with child abuse if they knowingly or willfully: Intentionally inflict physical or mental injury on a child; Intentionally act in a way that could reasonably be expected to cause physical or mental injury to a child; or Actively encourage any person to commit an act that results in or could reasonably be expected to cause physical or mental injury to a child.
An individual can be charged with aggravated child abuse under Fla. Stat. § 827.03(2) if they:
- Commit aggravated battery on a child;
- Willfully torture, maliciously punish or willfully and unlawfully cage a child; or
- Knowingly or willfully abuse a child and cause great bodily harm, or permanent disfigurement or disability to the child.
Under Fla. Stat. § 827.03(3), a child’s caregiver can be charged with neglecting a child if they: Fail or omit to providing a child with care, supervision and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health. These services can include:
- Medicine, and/or
- Medical Services.
Additionally, a child’s caregiver can be charged with neglect of a child if they fail to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect or exploitation by another person. Criminal charges for neglect of a child can be based on a single occurrence or repeated conduct.
The penalties for child abuse and child neglect are defined in sections 775.082, 775.083 and 775.084 of the Florida Statutes. The actual punishments can vary, depending on whether the alleged offender has a previous criminal conviction and whether bodily harm, disfigurement or disability occurred from the abuse. In felony cases a score sheet is used and prior history or injury can increase someone’s score. The guideline sentence is determined by the score sheet. Just because someone scores prison does not mean that they will go to prison. Rarely is it in the child’s best interest to put their parents in prison or convict them of a felony.
An individual charged with neglect of a child or child abuse that does not result in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement can be convicted of a felony of the third-degree offense, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or probation and a fine up to $5,000.
An individual charged with aggravated child abuse can be convicted of a felony of the first-degree offense, which is punishable by a prison sentence up to 30 years and/or a fine up to $10,000.
An individual charged with neglect of a child that results in great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement can be convicted of a felony of the second-degree offense, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.
Potential Child Neglect or Child Abuse Defenses:
The Assistant State Attorney in Sanford has the burden of proof to prove an individual who allegedly engaged in child abuse or child neglect committed each and every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This burden is very difficult to meet, as there can be a variety of defenses or mitigating factors that may cast doubt on the prosecutor’s case. A few common defenses and factors include:
- Violations of procedure by law enforcement;
- The offense was committed unknowingly;
- Violations of Constitutional rights;
- The accused is not the person that caused the abuse or neglect;
- The offense was an accident and was not willful;
- Lack of evidence to prove the case;
- Miranda warnings were not properly given prior to confessions or admissions;
- The alleged abuse or neglect was corporal punishment that is legal in Florida.
If you are accused of child neglect or child abuse in Seminole County contact Seminole County child abuse attorney Kevin J. Pitts. Mr. Pitts is a former prosecutor who has been focusing his practice exclusively of criminal defense since 2010. These cases are serious and the criminal consequences are only part of the legal consequences of an abuse or neglect accusation. DCF can get involved and potentially divide up a family. This can drag a family into dependency court and DCF can stay involved long after the criminal allegations are resolved. Contact Seminole County child neglect attorney Kevin J. Pitts at 407-883-6853 to set up a free case evaluation.