What Constitutes Child Neglect in Florida
You might wrongly assume that child neglect is not as bad as child abuse, but the fact is, neglect is one type of child abuse. Florida Statutes Title XLVI Chapter 827.03(e) defines neglect as:
- When a caregiver fails or omits to give a child the necessary supervision, care, and services needed to maintain the child’s mental and physical health. This includes, but is not limited to, nutrition, food, shelter, supervision, clothing, medical treatment, and medicine that a practical person would consider necessary for the well-being of the child.
- A caregiver fails to take reasonable steps to prevent a child from being abused, neglected, or exploited by someone else.
Criminal Charges for Child Neglect
Neglect of a child in Florida is considered a felony. If the abuse or neglect does not cause any bodily harm or cause any disfigurement or disability, it’s a third-degree felony and the penalties include up to five years of probation or five years in prison, and a fine of up to $5,000. If there is great bodily harm, it becomes a second-degree felony with penalties of up to 15 years of probation or 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
To win a conviction, the Florida prosecutor will need to prove child neglect beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition to meeting the definition of child neglect as defined by the statute, the child in question must be under 18 years old.
It’s important to note that any conviction for child neglect could also have a negative impact on parental rights, including loss of custody.
Defenses to Child Neglect
There is a lot of subjectivity when it comes to child neglect cases, and there are numerous defenses someone can raise when contesting the charges. Common defenses to the crime of child neglect can include:
- The defendant is not the child’s caregiver and is not responsible for his or her welfare;
- The actions are merely negligence, not neglect;
- The defendant was not willfully neglectful;
- There is lack of proof regarding the mental state, acts, and omissions of the defendant;
- Defendant claims the incident was an accident, a misunderstanding, or a mistake of fact;
- The defendant had reasonable belief the child was under someone else’s supervision;
- There was no way to reasonably know the harm suffered would’ve occurred;
- There was a reasonable effort by the defendant to protect the child.
It’s unfortunate, but there are some people who place fake reports of child neglect just to cause problems in someone’s life who they do not like. It could be neighbors who are battling, or someone who doesn’t agree with parenting styles or how you educate your child. This is where the valid use of a defense is really important.
Retaining a Florida Attorney
If you’ve been accused of child neglect, you can be facing criminal charges and ultimately lose custody of your children. It’s important to speak with a skilled Florida family law attorney to see what steps you need to take. Contact the Law Offices of Schwartz | White at 561-391-9943 to schedule a consultation.