Child abuse charges are very serious in Clearwater, Florida and the United States in general. The state statute describes three particular offenses against children that fall under the general category of child abuse. They include child abuse, aggravated child abuse and child neglect. It’s important to know the differences between these charges and the penalties for each of them. No matter what, when a person is charged with one of these crimes, they should retain a skilled criminal defense attorney to represent them.
Child Abuse Laws in Florida
In the state of Florida, child abuse is described as the willful threatening act against a child that may include mental, physical or sexual abuse, harm or injury that causes the deterioration of a child’s physical, mental or emotional health.
Generally, a child is a person who is unmarried and under the age of 18. This doesn’t include youngsters under the age of 18 who have legally been emancipated by the court. A victim of child abuse also does not have to be related to the perpetrator of the abuse and can be anyone who is a minor.
By Florida law, certain professional individuals are required to report child abuse if they suspect it. The following professionals are expected and required to report suspected child abuse:
• Teachers and other school personnel
• Social workers
• Law enforcement officers
• Mental health professionals
When a professional reports alleged child abuse, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) conducts an investigation. Although they are not legally required to do so, family members and neighbors of a child suspected to be abused can also report their suspicions to the DCF.
Unfortunately, there are many false child abuse accusations that are reported. A person who is wrongfully accused of this serious crime should hire a lawyer immediately.
Child Abuse Charges
Child abuse laws in Florida and the rest of the country generally cover the same conduct. A person can be charged with the following specific child abuse charges:
• Assault: It is a crime to commit an assault or physical attack against a child or to commit any type of action that can result in harm to a child. Even minor injuries like cuts and bruises are considered assault. However, an adult can even be charged with child abuse when they assault a child and the child doesn’t sustain any injuries as a result.
• Discipline: Many charges of child abuse come as a result of a parent or guardian attempting to discipline a child. The court must see the act of disciplining to be in the child’s best interests and reasonable. However, unreasonable acts can be considered child abuse. What is reasonable depends on the situation and factors, such as the family background, extent of harm the child suffered and the severity of the discipline.
• Sexual abuse: Any sexual actions against a child are considered to be abuse. Children cannot legally give consent.
• Neglect: Accidental harm to a child is not viewed as child abuse. However, when a parent or guardian is negligent or careless with a child, such as leaving the child home alone when they are too young to care for themselves, not feeding the child or failing to provide basic needs is considered child neglect, which is a form of abuse.
• Threats: Verbal threats that lead to emotional harm to a child is considered child abuse as well. A child doesn’t need to suffer physical harm for actions to be abusive.
If you have been accused of child abuse in Florida, you should contact a skilled lawyer such as William Hanlon Clearwater criminal attorney at your earliest convenience to discuss your case.