No criminal charge should ever be taken lightly, but this is especially true if you are charged with child abuse. This is one of the most serious crimes that a person can commit in the state of Florida. If convicted, not only will you face severe legal penalties, but you could also lose custody of your child.

There’s no doubt that there is a lot on the line in a child abuse case, which is why you should never face these charges alone. If you are accused of committing child abuse, contact a Tampa criminal defense attorney right away. But in the meantime, it’s important to understand your charges and what could happen if you are convicted.

How Does Florida Law Define Child Abuse?

Florida law outlines three different types of crimes that involve the mistreatment of children: aggravated child abuse, child abuse, and child neglect. If you are accused of mistreating your child, it’s important to understand the differences between these three terms.

A person commits aggravated child abuse when they:

  • Commit aggravated battery on a child; or
  • Intentionally torture, maliciously punish, or unlawfully cage a child; or
  • Commit child abuse that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child.

A person commits child abuse when they:

  • Intentionally physically or mentally injure a child; or
  • Intentionally engage in behavior that could reasonably be expected to physically or mentally injure a child; or
  • Encourage another person to engage in behavior that actually or could be expected to physically or mentally injure a child.

The law defines the neglect of a child as:

  • The failure to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services they need to maintain their health. This may include food, nutrition, shelter, supervision, medicine, and more; or
  • The failure to make an effort to protect the child from being abused, neglected, or exploited by another person.

Neglect charges are often based on repeated acts of child neglect. But the law also states that a person can be charged with child neglect based on a single incident if that incident results in or could reasonably result in serious physical or mental injury or risk of death to a child.

Is Child Abuse A Felony or Misdemeanor in Florida?

Aggravated child abuse is the most serious type of child abuse offense in this state. If you are accused of aggravated child abuse, you will face first degree felony charges. A conviction for a first degree felony crime is punishable by up to 30 years in prison in addition to $10,000 in fines.

If the abusive acts do not amount to aggravated child abuse, the state will charge you with child abuse, which is a third degree felony crime. This type of offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines.

There are two different types of child neglect crimes in Florida. If the child does not suffer great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement as a result of the neglect, you will be charged with third degree felony child neglect. If convicted of this crime, the court can sentence you to up to five years in prison and order you to pay up to $5,000 in fines.

However, if the child does suffer great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement due to the neglect, you will face second degree felony child neglect charges. If convicted of this crime, the court could sentence you to up to 15 years in prison and order you to pay up to $15,000 in fines.

How Will A Child Abuse Conviction Affect Your Parental Rights?

You can face a number of serious penalties for an aggravated child abuse, child abuse, or child neglect conviction. In addition to incarceration, a conviction for one or more of these crimes could also impact your parenting rights.

If you are convicted of aggravated child abuse, child abuse, or child neglect, the court may decide to terminate your parental rights. These rights include the right to spend time with your child, make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, and communicate with your child.

In most cases, the court-ordered termination of parental rights is permanent and irrevocable, which means you could lose your parental rights forever if you are convicted of one of these crimes.

Who Can Be Charged With Child Abuse or Neglect?

Some people assume that the only people that can be charged with child abuse or neglect are the child’s parents, but that’s not the case.

Anyone who commits the act of child abuse or aggravated child abuse against a minor can face criminal charges. This is true regardless of whether or not the person who commits the abuse is the parent of the abused child.

However, the law specifically states that “caregivers” are the only individuals who can be charged with child neglect. A caregiver is legally defined as a person who is responsible for the welfare of a child. This may include a parent, legal guardian, adult household member, or any other individual who has been given this responsibility.

To put it simply, you cannot be charged with child neglect unless you meet the legal definition of a caregiver. But you can be charged with child abuse or aggravated child abuse regardless of your relationship with the child.

Call Now to Set Up A Free Consultation Regarding Your Case

If you are accused of abusing your child, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from a criminal defense attorney at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett as soon as possible. These charges are serious, which is why you will need an attorney’s help to fight them.

Our team of criminal defense lawyers have over 125 years of combined experience. This means we have the legal resources, experience, and skills needed to beat child abuse charges. Let us work tirelessly to reach the best possible outcome in your case.

Call our law office now to schedule a free consultation regarding your case.