Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

What Is Actually Considered As Child Abuse In Florida?


Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Florida statute 827.03 defines the abuse of children in multiple ways. Aggravated child abuse involves something along the lines of a felony occurring to a child under the age of 18. Aggravated battery, willful torture, malicious punishment and caging in a willful and unlawful manner are all considered forms of aggravated child abuse. Knowingly and willfully abusing a child and causing great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement is also considered aggravated child abuse.

Child abuse itself, without aggravation, is defined as the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child. We start running into real problems in terms of trying these types of cases when they involve mental injury. Cases involving mental injury involve expert witnesses and are very technical and difficult to defend. That is because a large number of jurors-despite saying that they can be fair- are predisposed to presume guilt. The increasing level at which guilt is presumed is making it more and more difficult for people to get fair trials, particularly in cases involving children.

Aggravated child abuse is a felony of the first degree. Short of a mandatory life in prison type of felony or a death penalty case, it is the most serious form of penalty under Florida law. These score a great deal of points under the Florida Punishment Code, and unless a proper defense is mounted, the negotiating parameters are normally limited in terms of how much prison time someone will serve. Some of these cases are best defended in an aggressive manner, while others will have a better outcome if the case is defended more gently. Each case is different because each set of facts is different.

Expert testimony is statutorily regulated when it comes to child abuse, except as provided in a specific subsection. Specifically, a physician may not provide expert testimony in criminal child abuse cases unless properly licensed under chapter 548-549 or unless they are certified as an expert witness subject to those two subsections related to qualification. Subsection B goes on to say that a physician’s proffered testimony as an expert regarding a mental injury cannot be allowed unless they are licensed under those sections as well. Moreover, a psychologist may not give expert testimony regarding mental injury unless licensed under another area of law (chapter 490). This section only applies to criminal child abuse and neglect cases pursuant to this chapter, dependency cases under chapter 39 and cases that involve sexual battery under 794.

It is critical to understand that although not specifically listed under 827, there are forms of child abuse that are not contained within that statute. Instead, they are alluded to at the very end of 827 when it talks about the sexual battery (under 794). One could argue that an 804 of lewd or lascivious molestation of a child is a form of child abuse, even though it’s not specifically defined as such under this particular section. When it comes to cases involving abuse of children, it’s important to remember that there is not one specific section of the law that is one-size-fits-all; there are many sections of the law. If a crime of a physical nature is committed against a child, then it is probably going to fall under the statutory rubric of child abuse.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

For more information on Child Abuse In Florida, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 466-1522 today.

Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

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