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Child Abuse & Neglect Lawyer in Miami
Also Serving Fort Lauderdale
Children are generally viewed as among the most vulnerable groups of victims, and crimes involving any abuse or neglect of children are thus taken very seriously by state prosecutors. Alleged offenders accused of abusing or neglecting children will often face felony charges that can carry severe penalties.
Since so many cases of alleged child abuse or neglect rely on witness testimony, alleged offenders can often find themselves facing criminal charges as the result of misunderstandings. In some cases, parents or legal guardians are guilty of nothing other than disciplining their children and some alleged offenders may even be falsely accused by former spouses when the couple is in the midst of contentious child custody or divorce proceedings.
If you think that you might be under investigation or you were already arrested for alleged neglect or abuse of a child, don't say anything to authorities without legal counsel. The Miami child abuse and neglect lawyer at The Hoffman Firm fights to protect the rights of parents and legal guardians.
Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect in Florida
Child abuse and neglect of a child are two separate offenses under state law in Florida. Either crime is classified as a felony offense.
Child abuse—sometimes referred to as so-called “simple child abuse”—is defined under Florida Statute § 827.03(1)(b) as:
- Active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results or could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child
- An intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child
- Intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child
Under Florida Statute § 827.03(1)(a), aggravated child abuse is defined as occurring when an alleged offender:
- Knowingly or willfully abuses a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child
- Willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages a child
- Commits aggravated battery on a child
Florida Statute § 827.03(1)(e) defines neglect of a child as:
- A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person
- A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child
The statute notes that neglect of a child can be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident or omission that results in—or could reasonably be expected to result in—serious physical or mental injury, or a substantial risk of death, to a child.
Florida Statute § 827.03(2) establishes three grades of felony offenses relating to neglect or abuse of a child in Florida. The possible classification of the alleged offense depends on the nature of the alleged offender’s actions and any injuries the alleged victim may have suffered.
Child abuse or neglect can result in the following sentences:
- Third Degree Felony — Knowingly or willfully abusing a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child, or willfully or by culpable negligence neglecting a child without causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child is punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $5,000
- Second Degree Felony — Willfully or by culpable negligence neglecting a child and in so doing causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child is punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000
- First Degree Felony — Committing aggravated child abuse is punishable by a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $10,000
Chapter 16.3 of the states that it is not a crime for a parent or a person who is acting in place of a parent of a child to “impose reasonable physical discipline on a child for misbehavior under the circumstances even though physical injury resulted from the discipline.”
If a jury finds that the alleged offender proved that he or she was a parent or a person acting in place of a parent of the alleged victim and that he or she imposed reasonable physical discipline on the alleged victim for misbehavior under the circumstances, the instructions state the jury should find him or her not guilty.
Florida Child Abuse & Neglect Resources
Child Protective Investigations Section | Broward Sheriff's Office— Any person who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare is required by Florida law to report the knowledge or suspected abuse. Learn how to report suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect on this website. The Child Protective Investigations Section of the Broward Sheriff's Office investigates allegations in Broward County.
Broward's Sheriff's Office
2601 West Broward Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Florida Department of Children and Families | Abuse Hotline — When a person knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected, state law requires that person to report the knowledge or suspicion to the Florida Abuse Hotline. The Hotline refers cases to the Broward Sheriff's Office. On this website, you can report abuse online or find phone numbers to call in or fax your report.
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