Child Abuse

The following is a summary of the Child Abuse Laws in Florida (both aggravated and simple child abuse):

Florida Criminal Code Section39.202, 205; 39.201; 39.01(2)
What Constitutes AbuseWillful or threatened act resulting in physical, mental, or sexual
injury or harm, causing or likely to cause impairment of physical, mental, or
emotional health
Mandatory Reporting Required ByPhysician, mental health professional, spiritual practitioner, school
teacher, social worker, law enforcement officer, judge
Basis of Report of Abuse/neglectOne who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect neglect, abuse, or
To Whom ReportedDepartment of Children and Family Services
Penalty for Failure to Report or False ReportingMisdemeanor in 1st degree; if knowingly made false report: felony in
3rd degree

The crime of Aggravated Child Abuse can be
committed in one of three ways on a child less than 18 years old:

  1. Committing an aggravated battery on a child;
  2. Willfully torturing, maliciously punishing, or
    willfully and unlawfully caging a child; or
  3. Knowingly or willfully abusing a child and in
    so doing causing great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent
    disfigurement to the child.
  4. There is no requirement that the Aggravated
    Child Abuse must be committed by a person in a parental or custodial
    relationship to the victim, thus what might be charged as a felony battery if the child was an adult, can instead be charged
    as Aggravated Child Abuse at the prosecutor’s discretion.

The crime of Aggravated Child Abuse is
classified as a Second Degree Felony and is assigned a Level 8 offense severity
ranking under Florida’s Criminal Code.  If convicted of Aggravated Child Abuse, a judge
is required to impose a minimum prison sentence of 34½ months in prison and can
additionally impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to fifteen (15) years in prison.
  • Up to fifteen (15) years of probation.
  • Up to $10,000 in fines.

There are several specific defenses in a case of
child abuse such as those in any other criminal case.  However, in addition to these basic criminal
defenses which can be used in most any criminal case, parental privilege can be
used to defend a case of child abuse. A parent or one standing in loco parentis has the right to reasonably discipline a child under his or
her control and authority. However, if injuries more serious than minor
bruising occur as a result of the discipline, the parental privilege does not

(non-aggravated) Child Abuse

very important provisions can affect any parent and the state may try and
prosecute a parent under the following violations of the child abuse laws in

person who knowingly or willfully abuses a child without causing great bodily
harm,permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child commits a
felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child without causing
great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the
child commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

What is very important to consider relating to these two provisions of
the simple child abuse law is that a parent who uses a belt or other object to
spank and discipline a child is often accused of child abuse and could easily
face five years in prison being accused of a third-degree felony. Even parents
that severely scold their child causing what others decide to be damage to
their child’s “emotional health”.

Also, parents whose children suffer injuries or could have sustained
injuries or severe trauma due to circumstances unforeseen by the parents
involved are often charged with the second provision of the child abuse law relating
to culpable negligence on the part of the parent. These two provisions of the Florida
child abuse statute can destroy family relationships for a lifetime.

Once a parent is arrested for third-degree child abuse, assuming the child
is allowed to even remain in the home of the accused parent, then the social
workers visit the household on a regular basis interrupting the normal lives of
the family members. This visitation process can last for months.  In many instances, children are told to
report child abuse to the police by their teachers or friends when in fact the
parents were actually disciplining the child in a normal law-abiding manner.
When police arrive based on a complaint by a child, law-enforcement officers
take recorded statements from the child which are used later at trial even
though the child realizes that he/she made a mistake while emotionally upset in
reporting simple discipline by the parents as child abuse.

If you as a parent or guardian are charged with child abuse or contacted
by law enforcement regarding a child abuse case you need to contact our office
immediately and not make any statements to law enforcement since certain
comments could be interpreted as a violation of the child abuse statute in
Florida. If a parent is convicted of child abuse or any lesser misdemeanor
offense, such as contributing to the dependency of a child, they will never be able to work as an educator, any other employment
relating to children or in law enforcement or other similar professions.
Therefore, it is essential that upon an arrest or contact by law-enforcement,
the parent who could be accused of violating this law contact our office for
advice as soon as possible.


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