Child Neglect: What to Know if You’re Charged in Florida
During my time as an Assistant State Attorney, one of the most shocking and heartbreaking cases you could be presented with often involved elements of child neglect. Because our children are vulnerable and defenseless, child neglect charges are some of the most vigorously prosecuted charges under Florida State law. If you are charged with child neglect it is of the utmost importance that you contact an attorney as quickly as possible so that they can examine the nuances of your case and construct an appropriate legal strategy to ensure that you, and your child, remain safe and protected.
What is “Child Neglect”
The offense of child neglect is defined under Section 827.03, Florida Statutes. Under the law, “neglect of child” means “[a] caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health,” including, but not limited to:
- Food and nutrition;
- Medicine and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the wellbeing of the child.
Child Neglect may also occur as a result of “[a] caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.”
What is Required to Prove “Child Neglect?”
In order to prove the crime of child neglect in Florida, the State must establish the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant: (a) willfully or by culpable negligence failed or omitted to provide the alleged victim with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the victim’s physical or mental health; or (b) failed to make a reasonable effort to protect the alleged victim from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person;
- The defendant was the “caregiver” for the alleged victim; and
- The alleged victim was under 18 years of age.
What is “Culpable Negligence?”
“Culpable negligence” involves a higher degree of fault or responsibility than ordinary civil negligence. Culpable negligence is defined as a “failure to use reasonable care on behalf of another when such failure is gross or flagrant. The negligence must be committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others.” “Culpable negligence” involves consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the defendant must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily harm.
What is a “Caregiver?”
Florida State law requires that the defendant be a “caregiver,” which is defined as a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare.
Penalties for “Child Neglect”
All charges of “Neglect of a Child” are felonies. Where the neglect or abuse does not result in great bodily harm (or permanent disability or disfigurement), the charge is a third degree felony, which carries with it penalties of up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation and a $5,000 fine. Where great bodily harm does occur, the charge is a second-degree felony and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison or 15 years probation and a $10,000 fine. Carrying a conviction of “Child Neglect” on your criminal record could negatively impact your parental rights, as well as your ability to adopt and foster children.
Possible Defense Strategy
There are many approaches that you can take to defending an allegation of child neglect. Because each case is different, it is important to consult with an attorney to go over the nuances of your individual case and ensure that your situation is covered. Possible strategies include:
- The defendant’s acts or omissions do not amount to culpable negligence
- The defendant’s acts were not willful, or sufficiently flagrant or negligent
- The defendant used reasonable efforts to protect the child from abuse or neglect
- The incident occurred as a result of an accident, mistake of fact, or misunderstanding
Why You Should Contact an Attorney
There are many nuances of a potential case of “Neglect of a Child” to consider before moving forward. My experience as an Assistant State Attorney has exposed me to numerous types of these cases and their commonality lies in their differences. Given the numerous defenses available to contest these charges, an attorney is a vital asset for avoiding a conviction.
If you have question about your child neglect case please call my office at 407-415-9626 or email me at Jeremiah@JeremiahDAllen.com.