What is Child Abuse or Neglect
Child Abuse and Child Neglect are both governed by F.S. 827.03. The statute essentially says that the crime Child Abuse occurs when someone intentionally inflicts physical or mental injuries on a child, or encouraging the child to do something that would reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injuries to the child. The same statutes says that someone commits Neglect of a Child when a caregiver fails to provide a child with the necessities to maintain the Child’s physical and mental health.
Frequently with these charges the prosecutor uses expert witnesses to testify to the physical or mental injuries the child suffered. Pursuant to the statute the expert witness must be licensed pursuant to the statute in order to give expert testimony regarding the child physical or mental conditions.
The crime Child Abuse/Neglect is a felony of the 3rd degree punishable by up to 5 years in prison. However the statutes gives an enhancement for aggravating circumstances known as aggravated child abuse, which enhances the offense to a 1st degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
The statute lays out two ways of proving the crime: 1) the prosecutor can allege the child was abused by the defendant; or 2) the prosecutor can allege the child was neglected by the defendant. According to the statute if the prosecutor claims a defendant abused a child, the prosecutor must show that the defendant intentionally abused the child. However if the prosecutor proceeds on the theory of neglect, he only has to show the defendant was not prudent as a caregiver to prevent the physical or mental injuries that the child suffered. Other common defenses to the crime child abuse include the injuries did not come from the defendant, but from somewhere else. Often times these cases can become a battle of the experts in determining how the injuries occurred.