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Child Abuse

Next to sex crimes, no criminal charge carries such a stigma as child abuse. Child abuse, a third-degree felony in the State of Florida, is punishable by up to 5 years in prison. However, notwithstanding the criminal ramifications, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) will undoubtedly be notified if you or a loved one are charged with child abuse. Then you will be fighting a battle on two fronts: one against the State Attorney's Office in an effort to stay out of prison, the other against DCF in an effort not to lose custody of your children.
Child abuse can be proven by the State of Florida the following ways:
1) Defendant intentionally inflicted physical or mental injury upon a child victim (under 18 years of age).
2) Defendant committed an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to the child victim (under 18 years of age).
3) Defendant actively encouraged another person to commit an act that resulted in or could reasonably have been expected to result in physical or mental injury to the child victim (under 18 years of age).
Child abuse can occur in a number of ways. The most common allegation is that a parent struck or hit a child beyond what is appropriate corporal punishment. This may entail leaving marks or bruises on the child.
The second way (and fairly common way) that child abuse can be charge pertains to #2 - "an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to the child victim." This type of child abuse can occur if parents engage in an act of domestic violence in the presence of the child. When I was a Miami-Dade prosecutor, I tried cases where domestic batterers were also charged with child abuse because their acts of violence toward their spouses had occurred while the child was watching.
Like many third-degree felonies, first-time offenders may be eligible for Pretrial Intervention, should a parent or guardian (other than the Defendant, of course) agree. Also, the State Attorney's Office will look at the extent of the injury or the severity of the conduct.
However, all prosecutors will send a letter to DCF informing them of the pending charge(s).
Child abuse is one of the disqualifying offenses regarding the sealing of your criminal record. If you accept a guilty plea or are found guilty of child abuse, you cannot have your criminal record sealed. You may only have your record expunged if your case is dismissed by the State Attorney's Office, be it for completion of PTI or a dismissal on the merits (motion to dismiss or no action).
A charge of child abuse can ruin your life as much as sexually-related criminal charge can. You are at risk for losing your children, in addition to facing judgment by your friends and family members. Many allegations of child abuse are just that - allegations. Don't be bullied by the State Attorney's Office or the police. They believe these allegations to be 100% true, and will stop at nothing to see you prosecuted.
I represent clients charged with child abuse in Miami-Dade and Broward County. I practice criminal defense exclusively, and pride myself on being a criminal attorney who devotes careful attention to my clients' cases. I know that getting arrested and being charged with a crime is likely the worst experience you and your family has ever endured. Don't go through it alone.
Call me to schedule a free consultation.
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