If you have been accused of child abuse or child neglect, it is important to contact an experienced, aggressive, and skilled attorney to defend you against these serious allegations. Throughout the State of Florida, Anthony Rickman has successfully represented clients in all stages of child abuse and neglect cases, including motions to dismiss, motions to suppress, motions to exclude expert witnesses, restraining orders, DCF investigations, and jury trials. If you have been charged with child abuse or a child related offense, don’t delay, contact Anthony Rickman at The Rickman Law Firm for a free consultation.
A person facing child abuse charges can lose their parental rights; have their reputation damaged; and sustain a criminal record, costly fines, and even a prison sentence. Depending on the circumstances of the case, crimes related to physical or mental harm inflicted on a person under the age of 18 are classified into three categories: child abuse, aggravated child abuse, and child neglect.
Have You Been Accused of Child Abuse?
Child abuse is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Florida statute 827.03, defines child abuse as:
* an infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child
* an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child
* 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
Have You Been Accused of Aggravated Child Abuse?
Child abuse charges can increase in cases in which the child was caused great bodily harm. Aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Aggravated child abuse is when a person:
* commits aggravated battery on a minor
* willfully tortures or maliciously punishes a child
* knowingly or willfully abuses a child and in doing so causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child
It’s important to note that “great bodily harm” is defined as being distinguished from slight, trivial, minor, or moderate harm, and does not include mere bruises that are likely to be inflicted during assault and battery. A broken bone, a permanent scar, disfigurement, or extreme physical or mental injury could be defined as great bodily harm.
Have You Been Accused of Child Neglect?
Depending on the level of harm inflicted, neglect of a child can result in either a second- or third-degree felony. A third-degree child neglect charge is punishable by up to five years in prison, whereas aggravated child neglect is a second-degree crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Aggravated child neglect is when a person willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a minor, resulting in great bodily harm to the child.
Child neglect charges can also stem from repeat incidents or an isolated incident. Florida law defines child neglect as:
* 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
* A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person
If you have been accused of child abuse or aggravated child abuse, it is important that you have an attorney by your side who can explore all of your available defenses. Defenses to child abuse can include the following:
Right to Discipline: Parents or certain professionals (teachers, caregivers, and legal guardians) have the right to administer physical discipline to a child as long as this discipline doesn’t result in physical injury to the child. In other words, if a child is marginally bruised as a result of a parent administering discipline, it is not considered child abuse.
False Claim: Child abuse is one of the most falsely reported crimes. Often, people are accused of child abuse or aggravated child abuse when they are completely innocent. Whether a child abuse report stems from mandatory reporting laws, a child custody battle, or a divorce, many are made without the accuser providing sufficient evidence that a crime occured. In many of these cases, the party reporting the incident does not understand laws related to child abuse. Unfortunately, far too many innocent people are arrested, investigated, or accused of a crime that they did not commit.
Injury is Related to an Accident: To prove the crime of child abuse or aggravated child abuse, the state must show that the injury was caused by abuse. As many parents know, children are prone to injury. Innocent conduct or accidental injury cannot serve as the basis for a child abuse charge as the crime of child abuse requires “intent” to injure or harm on the part of the defendant.
Lack of Evidence of Great Bodily Harm (Aggravated Child Abuse): The crime of aggravated child abuse requires the state to prove that the defendant caused great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child. People are sometimes accused of aggravated child abuse when no such harm was caused by the defendant. The absence of great bodily harm is a defense against a charge of aggravated child abuse.
Child neglect and aggravated child neglect are serious crimes in the State of Florida. It is important to hire an experienced and aggressive attorney to defend you against these allegations. Anthony Rickman has successfully defended clients charged with aggravated child neglect at all stages of their case, including at jury trial. Contact The Rickman Law firm today to explore possible defenses. These defenses could include: (1) that you were simply negligent not culpably negligent as required by the statute (2) that you were not the cause of the injuries to the child (3) that you are a caregiver (4) that you did not know the child needed intervention by a doctor or law enforcement (5) that you did provide the child with the care and services necessary.
If you have been charged with failure to report child abuse, or someone you know has been charged with child abuse/neglect, it is important that you contact an attorney to discuss your legal rights and options. Anthony Rickman has the ability, knowledge, and experience to assist you in all stages of this case. Don’t delay, contact The Rickman Law Firm today for a free consultation.