By some estimates, a report of child abuse is made about every 10 seconds in the United States. While physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of children is a serious problem that affects millions of young people in Florida and across the nation, not every accusation of child abuse is well-founded. Misunderstandings, mistakes of fact, and downright falsehoods may accompany reports of child abuse. Adding to this issue, educators and others may act under a “duty to report” even a faint suspicion so that they are not prosecuted under Florida’s strict “mandatory reporting” statutes. If you need to talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer about a child abuse charge, you should know that St. Petersburg and Clearwater child abuse lawyer Will Hanlon is here to help.
Under Florida law, it is illegal to engage in willful or threatening conduct that results in physical, mental, or sexual harm or injury to a child, if this conduct is likely to cause an impairment to the child’s health. Child abuse may take the form of intentional abuse, as well as abandonment or neglect. Each case is unique, of course, and what constitutes “abuse” in one situation may not be a prosecutable offense under different facts. A particular child abuse case may be prosecuted under Florida’s assault and battery laws, under the laws pertaining to domestic violence, or as a sex crime. A child abuse attorney can help Clearwater and St. Petersburg residents pursue a strategy that responds to the specific allegations in their case.Understanding Florida Child Abuse Laws
There are several different criminal offenses involving the abuse of children under Florida law. Typically, “child abuse” is defined under Florida Statutes § 827.03(b) as the intentional infliction of physical or mental harm on a child. To be considered a crime, the act does not actually need to result in an injury as long as it could reasonably be expected to result in an injury. The statute also outlaws the “active encouragement of any person” to commit an act that either results in a physical or mental injury to a child or could be reasonably expected to have that result.
Child abuse is charged as a felony. If the defendant’s conduct resulted in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the alleged victim, the defendant may be convicted of a second-degree felony. Otherwise, the offense is likely a felony in the third degree.
A defendant may face charges of aggravated child abuse if they allegedly committed aggravated battery on a child, maliciously punished a child, or knowingly or willfully abused a child, resulting in great bodily harm or a permanent disability or disfigurement. Aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony. Whereas a second-degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, sentencing in a first-degree felony case is a complex process that takes several factors into consideration. The defendant also faces fines and other penalties. The status of being a “convicted felon” may result in lifelong consequences that include the loss of civil liberties and difficulty finding work or housing.Retain a Child Abuse Lawyer in Clearwater or St. Petersburg
Being accused of any crime is frightening and confusing. It helps to talk to a knowledgeable, pragmatic criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after being arrested or learning that you are being investigated. Dedicated St. Petersburg and Clearwater child abuse attorney Will Hanlon has more than two decades of experience representing people accused of criminal actions in the state of Florida. He can carefully listen to your side of the story and help you understand what the State must prove, while exploring possible defenses and helping you evaluate any plea bargains. To schedule an appointment with a domestic violence attorney or seek assistance with a child abuse charge brought under another type of law, call Hanlon Law today at 727.897.5413 or contact us online. Our office also helps defendants in the areas surrounding Newport Richey and Dade City.