Failure to Report Child Abuse in Florida — Is It a Crime?
A number of states, including Florida, require anyone who suspects or witnesses child neglect or abuse to report the activity to the local authorities. Florida Statute 39.205 covers the crime of Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect. It defines the crime of Failure to Report as when someone knowingly and willfully fails to report any suspected or known child abuse, neglect, or abandonment by a caregiver, legal custodian, parent, or someone else to the Florida Abuse Hotline. This hotline is run by the Department of Children and Families.
Penalty for Not Reporting Child Abuse
You’re likely wondering — if you don’t report the suspected child neglect or abuse, what are the consequences? In Florida, the penalty for failing to report suspected or known abuse is that of a felony of the third degree, which means it is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. It’s important to remember that you are not required to know whether or not abuse has actually taken place, but it is your job to report any possible concerns you have.
The law was changed in 2012 to raise the sentencing from a misdemeanor to a felony of the third degree. The number you are expected to call is 1-800-96-ABUSE. However, what do you actually do when you called the hotline number? Do you need special information? What do you say and report?
How to Call the Child Abuse Hotline
If you suspect or know child abuse is taking place, your first step is to call the abuse hotline. Ask for the identification number on the person taking your call. You should ensure you have proper documentation to protect yourself. Keep detailed notes, including the date you called the hotline, the ID and name of person you spoke with, and the reason for your call, and even your signature. All this information is required to keep yourself from facing a felony in the third degree.
If you’re employed in certain positions, you are required to submit your name to the hotline member you speak with. Some of these occupation categories include:
- Law Enforcement Officer;
- Chiropractor, Physician, Nurse, Osteopathic Physician;
- Foster Care, Day Care Worker, Social Worker; or
- School Official, School Teacher, or other School Personnel.
What is Child Abuse or Neglect?
Florida’s statute defines abuse as any threatened or willful act that results in the child’s physical, emotional, or mental health to be significantly impacted. Child abuse can include either an act or the omission of an act. Neglect is defined as when a child is deprived of necessary shelter, food, clothing, or medical treatment. It can also be when a child is allowed to live in a setting where the environment or deprivation ends up causing the child’s emotional, physical, or mental health to be significantly impacted or in danger of being significantly impacted.
There is an exception if the alleged neglect was primarily caused by financial inability, unless there was an offer of actual relief was offered and rejected by the parent or legal guardian.
Contact a Florida Family Law Attorney
If you have questions about what constitutes child abuse or neglect, you need to speak with a knowledgeable Boca Raton family law attorney who can advise you on how best to proceed. Contact the Law Offices of Schwartz | White today at 561-391-9943 to schedule an initial consultation and let us answer any legal questions you may have.