Child Abuse & Neglect Attorney in Pensacola, Florida
More than 4.2 million children under the age of 18 lived in Florida in 2021. More than 256,000 of them were investigated for being victims of alleged child abuse or neglect. Of those, more than 27,000 children, or 10% of those allegations, were proven to be victims of maltreatment.
It is a tragedy that children fall victim to abuse and neglect. Adults accused of such acts face severe legal penalties. Moreover, whether they are guilty or not, whether they are convicted or not, the allegations alone can devastate their lives.
Tom McGuire believes that everyone deserves the best criminal defense in child abuse and neglect cases, regardless of innocence or guilt. He believed this as a public defender, and he believes it as a private criminal defense attorney. In these types of cases, the accused are often socially convicted before the evidence is even heard at trial.
If you are being investigated or have been arrested for charges of child abuse or neglect in Pensacola, Florida—or throughout Santa Rosa County and Escambia County, including Crestview, Fort Walton Beach, and Milton—Panhandle Defense Firm can help.
What Constitutes Child Abuse & Neglect in Florida?
Abuse and neglect are felony offenses under Florida law. Although they usually occur at the same time, each is distinct by definition.
Child abuse is intentionally inflicting or threatening to inflict physical, emotional, or sexual harm and injury on a minor. Neglect is a failure to provide the care, supervision, or services a child needs for their physical or mental well-being. Abuse is an act, while neglect is inaction when action is necessary.
Examples of physical child abuse include acts that leave bruising, burns, fractures, cuts, and wounds on a child. This may occur randomly or while disciplining a child.
The dynamic of emotional abuse is not about physical harm but rather doing things that cause a child mental anguish, usually resulting in low self-esteem, depression, and withdrawal. Emotional abuse may be inflicted by yelling at a child, demeaning them, bullying them, ridiculing them, or withholding affection.
Child neglect is common. It comprises such inaction as not providing adequate food, water, personal care, and attention. It may involve leaving children unsupervised or leaving one child to supervise others when that child is incapable of such supervision.
What Is the Role of Child Protective Services in Florida?
Child Protective Services (CPS) operates under the Florida Department of Children and Families. It operates the state’s child abuse hotline and investigates allegations of child abuse and neglect. CPS has an obligation to investigate all substantiated reports of abuse, even if they are determined to be false.
CPS has the right to talk to children without parental permission or presence, and can remove children from their home to protect them from potential abuse and neglect, even if such allegations have not yet been proven.
CPS can use anything you say to them against you, just as law enforcement can. This is why you should refuse to answer questions until you are represented by a criminal defense attorney like Tom McGuire.
CPS may also ask that parents adhere to certain requirements in a child safety plan. Although such plans are not ordered by the court and are therefore not enforceable, CPS can report your lack of adherence to the court as evidence to be used against you in a criminal trial or in removal proceedings.
What Are the Penalties for a Child Abuse or Neglect Conviction?
As third-degree felonies, penalties for child abuse or neglect convictions may include up to five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.
Aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison, 30 years of probation, and up to $10,000 in fines. Aggravated charges involve disfigurement, disabling, or causing permanent injury; caging of a child, malicious punishment, or willful torture; or aggravated battery.
If convicted, you may also pay other heavy prices, such as:
losing custody and visitation of your child;
being barred from certain types of employment and education; and,
destroying personal and professional relationships.
What Are the Possible Defenses Against Child Abuse or Neglect Charges?
Defenses used in a case of course depend on the circumstances of the alleged incidents. However, some common defenses include the following:
a lack of intent to harm the child
injury by accident
the right of a parent to discipline their child
insufficient evidence to support the charges
Child Abuse & Neglect Attorney Serving Pensacola, Florida
Don’t make the mistake of believing that, because you are innocent of the allegations, you will not be convicted or spurned. If you have been accused of an offense, you need knowledgeable, aggressive, and seasoned criminal defense. Tom McGuire can provide this for you. Don’t delay. Call Panhandle Defense Firm in Pensacola, Florida, for support.