Miami Child Abuse Defense Attorney

The state of Florida takes the health and welfare of children in the state seriously and has enacted laws to protect the interests of those under the age of 18. The term child abuse includes the mental or physical abuse and/or neglect of a minor. Crimes related to child abuse are categorized as felonies, meaning punishment is more serious and often involves jail time. 

If you are accused of abusing or neglecting a child it is important that you obtain experienced legal counsel immediately as a conviction often results in jail time and loss of parental rights. The attorneys at Valiente Law have a record of fighting for their clients’ interests in the areas of criminal defense and child abuse specifically. If you need an attorney, you can trust Valiente Law to represent your interests no matter the case or charges. 

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is a term often used to refer to several actions that harm a child. Abuse occurs in three forms: 

(1) intentionally causing physical or mental injury to a child; 

(2) acting in a manner that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child; and  

(3) actively encouraging another to commit an act that results in or could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.

Florida recognizes four crimes under the category of child abuse. The first is aggravated child abuse, which includes battering, torturing, caging, or causing great bodily harm to a child. Aggravated child abuse is a felony in the first degree punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The next offense is related to the neglect of a child that results in serious bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement. Neglect that results in serious bodily harm is a felony in the second degree punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The third offense is abusing a child in a manner that does not cause serious bodily injury. Abuse without serious bodily injury is a felony in the third degree punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Finally, the law prohibits neglect of a child even if it does not result in serious bodily injury. Neglect absent serious bodily injury is a felony in the third degree punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

What is a Mental Injury?

Florida statute defines a mental injury to a child as an injury to the “intellectual or psychological capacity of a child.” A mental injury is evidenced by a child’s inability to function as a normal child of age and experience. Evidence of mental injury is established by the evaluation of a licensed medical physician. 

What is Neglect?

Neglect of a child is the failure to provide care, supervision, or services essential to a child’s physical and mental health. This includes providing food, shelter, medicine, and medical services. Neglect also includes the failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect or exploitation by another person. 

What Defenses May Apply?

In Florida, people in certain positions, such as a pediatrician, teacher, or police officer, must report suspected child abuse. However, in many cases, these so-called “mandatory reporters” do not fully understand the circumstances surrounding the perceived abuse. As such, one potential defense involves explaining the circumstances. In many cases where there is no physical harm to the child; an investigation will end there. 

In other cases in which there is evidence of physical harm to a child, it may be necessary to explain the circumstances and show that the injury was an accident and did not occur out of intended harm or a willfully negligent act.

Additional Consequences

Aside from the potential punishment of jail time and fines, charges for and conviction of child abuse can result in the removal of a child from a home. Anytime child abuse is suspected, the Florida Department of Children and Families is involved. The Department of Children and Families will conduct an investigation regarding the suspected abuse. If necessary, a child may be removed from a home and placed with a family member or in foster care on a temporary basis. If upon further investigation the suspected abuse is confirmed, the Department of Children and Families may pursue termination of parental rights in family court.  

Wrongful Allegations of Child Abuse

Many times child abuse allegations stem from divorce proceedings during which one spouse attempts to gain an advantage in child custody proceedings. Because parties may have a motive to falsely report child abuse to authorities, Florida statute specifically requires the Department of Children and Families to report any false allegations to the appropriate authorities. 

A false report includes any report of child abuse made for the purpose of harassment or embarrassment, personal financial gain, obtaining child custody, or other benefits to the reporting party. If you believe you are the subject of false allegations of child abuse, an attorney can present your concerns to the Department of Children and Family to straighten out the situation.

Contact a Miami Child Abuse Criminal Defense Attorney 

If you are accused of child abuse or neglect, you face serious punishment and the loss of your family. To protect both your freedom and parental rights, it is essential that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at Valiente Law know the law and are dedicated to fighting for your rights in criminal court. If you have concerns about child abuse charges, contact Valiente Law to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.