LET A TAMPA DEFENSE LAWYER FIGHT YOUR CHILD ABUSE CHARGES
Because children are so important – and so completely vulnerable – it’s easy to report suspected child abuse in Florida. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to report a false or exaggerated child abuse claim. If you’re a parent in Florida, here’s what you need to know about child abuse and the law.
Something as minor as a bruised knee spotted by a teacher, a neighbor, or another parent could send investigators from the Florida Department of Children and Families to your home. Your child could be taken from you, at least temporarily, on the basis of something you did not do.
One recurring problem with child abuse cases in Florida is the hazy line between legal parental discipline and unlawful child abuse. If you face a child abuse charge in the Tampa Bay area, a Tampa child abuse defense attorney can explain how the law applies in your own circumstances.
HOW DOES FLORIDA LAW DEFINE CHILD ABUSE?
Another problem is fabricated allegations, especially in divorce proceedings and child custody battles. No matter how acrimonious or contentious a divorce may be, it is important for the parents to avoid false abuse accusations and to make their child’s best interests their top priority.
Unlike “passive” child neglect, abuse involves any threat or willful act that harms a child or is likely to impair a child physically, mentally, sexually, or emotionally. When the state can prove that a parent is abusive, that parent’s parental rights may be terminated by a Florida court.
WHAT DEFENSES CAN BE OFFERED AGAINST A CHILD ABUSE CHARGE?
How can you defend yourself and retain custody of your child after you’ve been accused of child abuse? Your attorney will develop a defense strategy that challenges the state’s evidence and casts doubt on the state’s case against you. These are the common defenses against child abuse:
- Accidents: The child was injured in an accident or in other circumstances that do not constitute child abuse.
- Fabricated allegations: For a number of reasons, many parents are wrongly accused of child abuse. Your attorney may be able to prove that the allegation against you is false.
- Parental right to discipline: Parents in Florida have the right to discipline their children physically, but spanking or other physical discipline must not result in bodily injury.
This is not an exhaustive list. Depending on the details of a child abuse case, another defense may be offered by your attorney.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR A CHILD ABUSE CONVICTION?
The penalties for a conviction on a child abuse charge are severe. A first-time offender facing a third-degree felony child abuse charge could be sent to prison for up to fifteen years and fined up to $10,000. Second and subsequent child abuse convictions trigger even harsher penalties.
As mentioned previously, a parent who is convicted of child abuse could lose his or her parental rights. That parent could also be named in a restraining order or a permanent injunction that prohibits any contact with his or her child or children.
Criminal penalties are formal, legal penalties, but a child abuse conviction may also entail extra-legal penalties. If you hold a professional license, you can expect disciplinary action from your licensing board. If you are an immigrant, a child abuse conviction could trigger a deportation.
Your reputation, family, and friendships will be damaged. In some cases – and especially if you work with children – you might find yourself unemployed after a child abuse conviction, which means that you would be seeking work with a recent felony conviction on your record.
WHAT IS A DEFENSE LAWYER’S ROLE IN A CHILD ABUSE CASE?
Working on your behalf, a criminal defense attorney with substantial experience handling child abuse cases may be able to:
- keep criminal charges from being filed against you
- negotiate for the reduction or dismissal of any pending charges
- obtain a not guilty verdict from a jury if the case goes to trial
If you are charged with child abuse, it is vital to remember your legal rights. Exercise your right to remain silent. Insist on your right to an attorney. You are innocent of child abuse – or any other charge – until and unless the state can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Tampa child abuse defense attorney Patrick B. Courtney has more than 24 years of legal experience. He’s been a prosecutor, so he knows both sides of child abuse cases. He also knows how to prevail on a client’s behalf and bring a child abuse case to its best possible conclusion.
Pat Courtney represents clients who are accused of child abuse in Sarasota, Polk, Pasco, Hillsborough, Manatee, and Pinellas counties. Learn more by calling his law offices – (813) 967-2000 – or by completing the brief contact form here on this website.