What Are Child Neglect Laws in Florida?
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Did you know that 75 percent of child abuse deaths can get traced back to neglect? That’s not a small number either; around five children died from abuse or neglect every day from October 2019 to September 2020. Child neglect laws are necessary to protect children and to provide consequences for caregivers who don’t fulfill their role.
However, what we sometimes see is that children get removed from homes for ‘neglect’ when the actual problem is poverty.
There’s a fine line between the two, and it can sometimes be difficult to judge when it’s neglect or when services being implemented could fix the problem. Regardless, if you’re accused of child neglect, it can lead to involvement from the state and legal issues.
If you’re involved with the law and children’s services, keep reading to understand Florida laws when it comes to child neglect.
What Is Child Neglect in Florida?
There are a few circumstances where you can get charged with child neglect in Florida. The first is if a caregiver fails to provide a child with the supervision, services, and care they need to protect the child’s physical and mental health.
This can include but isn’t limited to nutrition, food, shelter, clothing, supervision, medicine, and medical services that are essential to the child’s well-being.
Unfortunately, there have been too many publicized cases of this type of neglect in Florida. One instance occurred when two parents locked their three teenagers in a room and starved them. Reports state that there was plenty of food in the home.
Both parents were charged with neglect. Another recently publicized instance involved a TikTok star who left her five-year-old son home alone without supervision. He was found outside by neighbors crying, and she was arrested and charged with neglect.
You can also get charged with neglect in Florida if you fail to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.
Can You Get Prosecuted for Not Reporting Child Neglect?
You can get prosecuted for not reporting child neglect in Florida. Even if you’re not a mandatory reporter, you have a duty to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
It’s crucial that you make a report if you suspect a child is at risk. If you don’t, you can get charged with a third-degree felony. The penalty for this can be up to five years in prison and court costs and fines.
If you’re not a mandatory report, you can make an anonymous report. There have been some recently publicized instances in Florida where multiple professionals were arrested and are facing charges for failing to report. At least three daycare professionals were arrested and a DCF worker.
How Do You Report Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect in Florida?
If you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, it’s crucial that you report it. There are several ways you can report, you can call 911 and speak directly to law enforcement, or you can contact your local department of children and family services.
In addition, the Florida Department of Children and Families provides an online reporting tool that can get used.
What’s Required for a Child Neglect Conviction?
To be convicted of child neglect, you must be culpably negligent. This means that you consciously followed a course of action or committed an act that you should have reasonably known would cause death or great bodily harm.
For example, in the case of the parents who starved the teenagers, they should have reasonably known that denying their children food could have led to great bodily harm or death.
What Are the Penalties for Child Neglect?
Penalties for child neglect are divided into two categories.
The first category is neglect which doesn’t result in permanent disfigurement, permanent disability, or great bodily harm. This is considered a third-degree felony.
Consequences can include up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a fine of 5,000 dollars.
The second category is child neglect which does result in permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or great bodily harm. This is a second-degree felony.
Consequences can include up to 15 years of probation, 15 years in prison, and a 10,000-dollar fine.
If you’re charged with child neglect, you likely will have your children removed from your custody by DCF.
Criminal Defense to Child Neglect
If you are charged with child neglect, there are a variety of defenses that can get used. While some cases are straightforward, others are more subjective. In addition, unfortunately, there are people who will falsely report child neglect to cause problems for other people.
A report could also occur if someone doesn’t agree with how you parent or how you are educating your child (e.g., homeschooling).
There are a few common defenses you might see. In cases where the allegations are false, you could use that as your defense.
You could also make an argument that there was negligence but not neglect or that they were not willfully neglectful.
Another argument could be that there was no way to reasonably know that the harm would occur or that they made a reasonable attempt to protect the child in question.
There are multiple choices when it comes to defense; however, you shouldn’t take on your defense by yourself. A criminal lawyer can help you prepare your defense and make sure you know your options.
In addition, a lawyer can advise you on what route to take when it comes to custody issues that have occurred due to the claims made against you.
Understand Florida Child Neglect Laws
Child neglect laws are necessary to protect children. There are circumstances when you might get accused of neglect and be innocent.
It’s essential to know and understand the laws when you defend yourself. Because the penalties of child neglect are steep, it’s also important to hire an attorney to help with your defense.
Are you looking for a criminal defense attorney for your child neglect case? Contact us today to see how we can help with your case.
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