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New law in Florida requires Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse

The Penn State scandal has resulted in consequences far from the now infamous campus. In fact, Florida passed a new child abuse reporting law in the scandal's wake. It is being heralded as the toughest child abuse reporting law in America. Though this characterization may sound appealing to some, the negative consequences that will likely result from the law will hopefully inspire legislators to revisit this subject in the near future and approach it in a more measured way.

First, universities and colleges across the state will incur heavy penalties if they are determined to have "knowingly and willfully" failed to report any suspicions related to child neglect, abandonment or abuse.

The key word in that mandate is suspicions. Even if an educational institution or its employees suspects that these issues may be occurring, they must report these suspicions to law enforcement or face fines as high as $1 million per occurrence. Individuals employed by these institutions who fail to report their suspicions may be charged with a felony, prosecuted and required to pay thousands in fines.

In addition, suspicions must be reported even when the abuser is not a parent or a caretaker. Even if the suspected abuser is another child, institutions and individuals must report their suspicions to law enforcement. Given that many individuals are not well versed in what exactly the law considers to be child abuse or neglect, this provision of Florida's new law may prove to be particularly tricky to navigate.

Florida's new child abuse reporting law took effect on the first day of October. As a result, if you are concerned about whether or not child abuse is occurring and whether you are obligated to report your suspicions, it is important to consult the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney before authorities can hold you responsible for failing to report.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "Florida's new child abuse reporting law among nation's toughest," Kate Santich, Oct. 8, 2012

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