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Violent Crimes: Child Abuse / Child Neglect

Offenses against children are taken seriously in the State of Florida. The potential criminal punishments for aggravated child abuse, child abuse and child neglect can carry significant jail or prison time. Another pitfall in dealing with these kinds of cases is the certainty that a child protection investigator for the Department of Children and Family Services will become involved the case on the civil side and can petition the courts to actually take children away from parents and terminate parental rights. The Miami criminal defense law firm of DMT has defended dozens of parents charged with crimes against children. While some allegations of child abuse or child neglect may be true, it has been our experience at DMT that many of these allegations are not only unfounded, but entirely fabricated. Many times, children caught in the middle of domestic problems can be convinced to make false allegations against one parent or by third parties with the hope of gaining custody or in a worst case scenario, terminating parental rights.

There are three different types of offenses that can be charged under the current laws of the State of Florida. The Miami criminal defense lawyers at DMT have defended men and women alike being charged in state court for the offenses of child abuse, aggravated child abuse and child neglect. While the potential penalties are potentially harsh, DMT has been extremely effective in getting charges dropped in these types of cases. Even overwhelming evidence does not preclude the criminal attorneys at DMT from obtaining pre–trial intervention or probation, even in the most serious of cases. Prior to resolving any child abuse or child neglect case, DMT will conduct a lengthy investigation to determine if something other than abuse or neglect is the problem. Remember, if you are being investigated for child abuse or child neglect, never speak with detectives or any law enforcement outside the presence of a criminal lawyer. Any statements you make, can and will be used to build a case against you.

To prove the crime of aggravated child abuse, the prosecution has to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. They must prove that the defendant (1) committed an aggravated battery, or (2) willfully tortured, or (3) maliciously punished, or (4) willfully and unlawfully caged a victim under the 18 years of age. The defendant also must have knowingly and willfully committed the child abuse, and in committing the offense, caused great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement. To prove that a defendant committed aggravated child abuse by way of an aggravated battery, the following elements must be proven. There must be evidence that the defendant intentionally touched or struck the victim and caused bodily harm to the extent the law considers it great bodily harm or permanent disfigurement; or that the defendant used a deadly weapon. Aggravated child abuse is a second degree felony punishable up to 15 years in prison.

Child abuse will be charged if the prosecution can prove that a defendant intentionally inflicted mental or physical injuries, or committed an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result on physical or mental injury, or actively encouraged another individual to commit these acts on a child under the age of 18. The offense of child abuse is a third degree felony punishable up to five years in prison. Child neglect will be charged when the defendant willfully or by culpable negligence failed or omitted to provide care or supervision necessary to maintain a child's health. The defendant must be caregiver for the child, and once again the child must be under the age of 18. Examples of child neglect are leaving a child, depending on the age, alone at home, ingesting cocaine or marijuana in front of children or even having a physical domestic confrontation in front of children. Child neglect is a third degree felony punishable up to five years in prison.

Florida law recognizes a parent's right to discipline children. In order to use the parental authority defense, a defendant must show that he or she is in fact the parent or custodian of the child and that the corporal punishment was reasonable and not excessive. The courts, as well as prosecutors, will consider many factors in determining whether corporal punishment provided by a parent warrants a criminal charge. The court and the prosecution will consider the age of the child, the manner in which the child was struck, whether an object was used to strike the child, and whether injuries were sustained or marks left on the child. The end result will also depend largely on a defendant's prior criminal history for domestic violence or child abuse. As long as the crime is not serious and the child suffered only minor injuries parenting classes may be all that is required to achieve a dismissal of the criminal charges.

If you are under investigation for, or have been arrested and charged with any aggravated child abuse or child neglect, contact the Miami criminal lawyers at DMT. An experienced criminal attorney is available every day of the year, 24 hours a day to speak with you regarding your situation. Allow us the opportunity to help protect your rights and defend you case and you will not be disappointed. You can call our office at (305) 340-2197 or reach us by completing the form on our contact page or by sending an e–mail.