Child abuse and neglect are serious topics and should be handled with respect. Appropriate reporting of abuse of children is important in an effort to keep children safe and healthy. Sadly, there are some times when reports of child abuse are not accurate. Florida residents who find themselves at the wrong end of such accusations may feel at a loss for what to do. One of the most important things to do is ensure that you understand the laws and terminology regarding these situations.

Abuse and neglect definitions

There is no one type of charge that covers all cases. While the terms used can sound similar, it is important to understand what exactly you are being accused of. There are three primary charges for child abuse or child neglect in Florida:

  • Aggravated abuse: This is the charge in cases where a child is the alleged victim of torture, caging or any aggravated battery that results in permanent disfigurement or disability or bodily harm. In this charge, there is no mention of the alleged abuser's intention to cause harm, simply the identification that harm resulted from certain actions.
  • Child abuse: A charge of child abuse is used in cases where the alleged abuse had intention to cause either physical or mental harm to a child or encouraged another person to do so.
  • Neglect of a child: Any lack of providing proper physical or mental care to a child or failure to protect a child from the abuse of another person is considered neglect. This includes failing to provide proper food, clothing, shelter, necessary medical treatment and more.

A person accused of any of these crimes is wise to know the specifics of the charge before responding or taking action.

Florida reporting laws

In 2012, the state of Florida passed what is called the Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act which created some of the most stringent reporting guidelines for suspected child abuse or neglect in the country.

Prior to July 2012, only parents and caretakers were required to report abuse. Now, essentially every citizen is considered a reporter and the scope of positions legally required to report includes social workers, healthcare professionals, school teachers and other staff and more.

Failure to report a known or suspected incident of abuse or neglect had been an offense classified as a first degree misdemeanor but is now a third degree felony. Such toughening of the laws makes it clear that the state is encouraging the act of reporting.

What about false reporting?

False reports do occur and Florida does impose penalties for those people found guilty of making such reports. As with failure to report a known abuse, making a false report is a third degree felony. Convicted people can spend up to five years in prison and pay up to $10,000 in fines per incident.

Stay protected

It is critical that anyone accused of child abuse, aggravated abuse against a child or child neglect secure legal help. Fighting a false report is not easy and required experienced and professional assistance.

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