Penalties for Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect
In Florida, anyone who witnesses or suspects child abuse or neglect must report it to the authorities. According to Florida Statute 39.201, the crime of Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect occurs when a person intentionally and willfully fails to report known or suspected acts of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment to the Central Child Abuse Hotline run by the Department of Children and Families. Anyone who fails to report that a child is being abused or neglected in Florida may be guilty of a third-degree felony.
If you face charges for Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect, contact a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer immediately. The criminal defense team at The Umansky Law Firm holds more than 100 years of legal experience. Please contact our office to schedule a free case review with a seasoned defense attorney in Orlando today.
What Constitutes Child Abuse or Neglect in Florida?
Florida law describes abuse as any willful or threatened act that results in a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly damaged. A person can be guilty of child abuse for engaging in these acts or failing to act.
A person commits neglect when they deprive a child of necessities like:
- Medical care
Neglect may also involve allowing a child to live in an environment that damages or could potentially damage their physical, emotional, or mental wellbeing. There would be an exception if the suspected child neglect was caused predominantly by financial hardship and inability. However, this exception becomes null if the parent or guardian refused a legitimate offer of financial relief from their circumstances.
How Do I Report Child Abuse or Neglect to the Florida Abuse Hotline?
If you’re aware of or suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, the first thing to do is call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (28763). Be sure to carefully document that you’ve reported the abuse and write down:
- Date and time of your call
- Name and ID of the person who takes your call
- Reason for your call
- Your signature on your documented notes
This information is necessary to protect yourself from being charged with a suspected felony in the third degree.
Who Are Mandatory Reporters?
If you are working in certain positions, you are considered a mandatory reporter and are legally required to identify your name in your report to the Abuse Hotline. Some of these professions that require identification include:
- Child welfare workers
- School teachers
- Daycare providers
- Nurses and doctors
- Police officers
What Are the Consequences for Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect in Florida?
Anyone who fails to report child abuse or neglect in Florida is guilty of a third-degree felony that’s punishable by:
- Up to $5,000 in fines
- Up to five years in prison
- Up to five years of probation
This felony is categorized as a level 1 offense severity ranking per Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. If you are convicted of Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect, a judge may impose a sentence of probation or the maximum sentence of five years in prison with fines.
What Defense Strategies May Be Used Against Failure to Report Child Abuse and Neglect in Florida?
Criminal defense attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm may use various defense strategies against Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect that depend on the case’s unique circumstances. Along with different pretrial and trial defense methods, a criminal defense lawyer may consider the following defenses:
Lack of Reasonable Suspicion
While it’s legally required to report recognized child abuse or neglect, like when a child explicitly states they’ve been harmed or neglected—a person cannot report suspected child abuse or neglect founded exclusively on gossip or speculation. Only when a person reasonably suspects that child abuse or neglect occurred are they required to report it in Florida.
Reasonable suspicion as a defense to Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect has not been explicitly used in this context in Florida’s court of appeals. Still, there are various decisions in which reasonable suspicion has been used in general terms. Reasonable suspicion exists when a person possesses knowledge of objectifiable facts that support the belief that child neglect or abuse happened.
Contact an Experienced Orlando Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one is charged with Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect in Orlando or throughout Central Florida, contact The Umansky Law Firm to partner with a skilled criminal defense attorney. With over 100 years of combined legal experience, an Orlando criminal defense lawyer at The Umansky Law Firm can be your fierce advocate and help build a robust defense against the charges you face. Schedule a free consultation with a member of our criminal defense team and complete an online contact form or call today (407) 228-3838.