Allegations of child abuse can occur under a variety of circumstances. Many parents are surprised to learn that child abuse can be alleged even after a parent disciplines a child for misbehaving. Any mark left on a child can lead to an investigation by the Florida Department of Children and Families. Allegations of child abuse are often brought by education professionals in their role as mandated reporters of child abuse.

Many parents mistakenly think that talking to the authorities will help their case. In many cases, an admission that the parent struck the child will lead to an arrest. Once you believe that you are under investigation for child abuse, never make a statement to any law enforcement officer or employment of DCF without speaking with criminal defense attorney first.

Gainesville Child Abuse Defense Lawyer

Dean Galigani is experienced representing parents and other individuals charged with the very serious criminal offense of child abuse or aggravated child abuse in Gainesville, Alachua County and the surrounding areas including Ocala in Marion County, Starke in Bradford County, Macclenny in Baker County, Lake Butler in Union County, Trenton in Gilchrist County and Lake City in Columbia County, Florida

Statutory Elements of Child Abuse

Child abuse under Florida Statute § 827.03(1), Fla. Stat., includes the following statutory elements that must be proven by the prosecutor beyond all reasonable doubt:

  • the person willfully or knowingly; and
  • the child was under the age of 18 years old; and
  • the person intentionally inflicted mental or physical injury upon the child; or
  • the person committed an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in mental or physical injury to the child; or
  • the person actively encouraged another person to commit an act that resulted in or could reasonably have been expected to result in mental or physical injury to the child.

Corporal Punishment Defense

Florida law provides for a “parental” affirmative defense. Under this affirmative defense to child abuse, it is not a crime for a parent or other person who is acting as the lawful guardian of a child to impose “reasonable physical discipline” on a child for misbehavior under the circumstances even though physical injury resulted from the discipline.

Under Florida Statute § 39.01(35) the “parental” affirmative defense can apply even when the defendant is not a parent if the person exercised “legal custody” over the child. The term “legal custody” means a legal status created by a court which vests in a custodian of the person or guardian, whether  an agency or an individual, the right to have physical custody of the child and the right and duty to protect, nurture, guide, and discipline the child and to provide the child with shelter, food, education and ordinary psychological, psychiatric, dental, and medical care.

Definitions of Terms in Florida’s Child Abuse Statute

For prosecutions under Florida’s child abuse statute, the term abuse is defined under Florida Statute § 39.01(2) to mean any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions. Corporal discipline of a child by a parent or legal custodian for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.

Under Florida Statute § 39.01(42), the term “mental injury” is defined to mean an injury to the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child as evidenced by a discernible and substantial impairment in the ability to function within the normal range of performance and behavior.

Under Florida Statute Section § 39.01(56) the term “physical injury” is defined to mean death, permanent or temporary disfigurement, or impairment of any bodily part.

Lesser Included Crimes for Child Abuse

Lesser included crimes can include contributing to the dependency of a minor under Florida Statute Section 827.04(1). Under certain circumstances, Florida Statute Section 784.03 for battery might be a lesser included. See Kama v. State, 507 So. 2d 154 (Fla. 1st DCA 1987).

Additional Information on Child Abuse Crimes in Florida

Child Abuse Statistics in Florida – Read more about child abuse statistics in Florida from a website developed as a training module for education students at Florida International University. A recent report estimates that out of a child population of over 4 million in the State of Florida, there were 33,612 substantiated reports of child abuse in during the year 2010. The report also found 50,239 confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect in Florida in 2010.

Child Abuse Defense Attorney in Gainesville, FL

If you have been accused of child abuse, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Talk with him about the particular facts and circumstances of your case before you make any statement to a law enforcement officer.

Call Dean Galigani at (352) 375-0812 for a child abuse or aggravated child abuse case in Alachua County or Gainesville, FL, or one of the surrounding areas including Ocala in Marion County, Lake City in Columbia County, Lake Butler in Union County, Macclenny in Baker County, Trenton in Gilchrist County and Starke in Bradford County, Florida