What Are The Penalties For Child Abuse In Florida?
Allegations of child abuse are some of the most serious and damaging charges a person can face. Child abuse can lead to criminal convictions, prison time, and reputational damage at home, work, and in the community. It can also lead to loss of custody for a parent. This is not to downplay, of course, the impact that abuse has on children themselves in substantiated cases.
Child abuse, as defined under Florida Statutes Sec. 827.03, means:
- Intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child;
- Any intentional act that a person could reasonably expect would cause physical or mental injury to a child; or
- Active encouragement of any person to commit any act that could cause physical or mental harm to a child.
For these purposes, “mental injury” refers to intellectual or psychological damage to a child, or significant impairments to a child’s behavioral development. (This usually requires expert testimony at trial regarding whether the mental harm is such that it can be proven in court.)
Child abuse as described above is a third-degree felony under Florida Statutes Sec. 775.082, which can include a sentence up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
Aggravated child abuse, as defined under Florida Statutes Sec. 827.03, meanwhile, refers to abuse that involves serious and intentional injuries, torture or confinement, and aggravated battery. Aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony in Florida and can be charged when a person:
- Commits aggravated battery upon a child;
- Tortures, “maliciously punishes”, or unlawfully cages a child; (“maliciously” meaning wrongfully, intentionally, and without legal justification);
- Causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to a child.
Penalties for aggravated child abuse in Florida can include up to 30 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. As such, conviction of aggravated child abuse can alter the alleged offender’s life for years and decades to come.
To prove child abuse at trial, prosecutors must show:
- The victim was under 18 years old at the time of the offense; and
- The defendant intentionally caused the alleged physical or mental harm, or actively encouraged another person to commit the act.
Defenses can include that the defendant was exercising reasonable parental discipline (if the alleged injuries are minor), or that the alleged offense was an accident and not intentional. A prosecution’s lack of sufficient evidence to prove the claim beyond a reasonable doubt may also be grounds for exoneration.
False accusations of child abuse can happen too, and a skillful defense attorney can bring false accusations to light at trial. It is not uncommon, sadly, for parents or their families to make false accusations of abuse during a divorce case or custody battle to gain leverage over the accused parent.
The Orlando Criminal Defense Attorneys at Joshi Law Firm, PA Can Help You Defend Against False Child Abuse Allegations
Child abuse is a tragic occurrence anytime it happens, and must always be taken seriously. Sometimes, however, a person finds themselves facing allegations of abuse when their actions were simply an accident or even if they did nothing at all to harm the child. The circumstances surrounding an alleged child abuse incident are critical, and the experienced Orlando criminal defense attorneys at Joshi Law Firm will review all aspects of your case to determine the best possible defense strategy. Contact us today for help.