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What is the difference between child abuse and child neglect?

Unfortunately, many Tampa criminal defense attorneys routinely deal with matters relating to the above referenced charges. Often times and even more unfortunate, local assistant state attorneys are eager and overzealous in prosecuting child abuse, when the case is more likely child neglect. It’s critical to identify the distinctions between the charges prior to determining the best way to defend a case relating to the charges.

First, it’s important to note that child abuse actually requires some sort of overt act towards abuse with regard to the child. For example, excessive corporal punishment since the Florida Legislature eliminated that as being an affirmative defense to felony child abuse. Again, the easiest way to think about it is that child abuse requires a parent or legal guardian to do something towards the child.

Child neglect on the other hand is a charge where someone fails to do essentially one of two things. First, they fail to provide a child with the care and supervision services necessary to maintain a child’s physical and mental health. This would relate to a situation where a parent or a guardian fails to provide adequate and nutritious food, water and space to the minor child. Again, this is an oversimplified way to look at it, but for purposes of this article, it’s the easiest way to do so. The second potential for child neglect involves a situation where a caregiver, be it a parent or legal guardian, fails to make a reasonable effort to protect the child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person. This comes up in situations where a caregiver fails to provide protection when they know such abuse is occurring. For example, if the mother of a child permits her children to go around her boyfriend or paramour and she is well aware that they are being sexually abused. This often leads to the saddest and most difficult cases because not only now do the children deal with the scarring from the other party – the boyfriend or husband, they also deal with the criminal charges towards the mother for permitting those acts to happen to the minor children.

It’s also worth noting that there are actual two levels of child neglect under Florida law. There’s a third degree felony version, which involves a maximum of five years in a Florida state prison, while there is also a misdemeanor version which involves a maximum of one year in a county jail. This charge is called “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” is essentially a form of child neglect.   Obviously, it’s always in our interest to prevent our clients from being charged altogether with such crimes, we also work to attempt to reduce charges to a misdemeanor, rather than a felony in these cases. Obviously, if the facts and circumstances around the charges warrant it, we will aggressively and definitively proceed to trial to protect our client’s rights and ensure the State has the required evidence to prove their allegations against our client.

If you have any questions concerning child abuse and/or child neglect, contact the Tampa criminal defense attorneys of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation. We have handled thousands of cases throughout the Tampa Bay area and always offer a free case consultation. If you’d like to contact one of our Tampa criminal defense attorneys immediately, please use the “contact us now” tab in the upper right hand corner of our website. We appreciate you taking the time to check out our website and look forward to working with you in the future.