Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

What Are Some Situations Where Children May Falsely Accuse An Adult Of 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.

In any situation that involves a child making an accusation of child abuse, we consider the family dynamic. For example, are the biological parents of the child going through a divorce? If the answer is yes and there is a parent whom the child perceives to be the wrongdoer, then fabricated allegations of child abuse may arise. Fabricated child abuse cases can also come into play when there are relatives that do not like a new partner of a man or a woman. Family members will sometimes quiz a child in an inappropriate and leading manner that results in a false accusation. Those who are trained on how to investigate and prosecute child abuse are trained very early on not to do certain things that can result in false accusations. When a family member steers a child’s testimony, we have to try to undo the damage that’s caused. We have to remember that very young children love their family members and don’t have the presence of mind, perception skill or intellectual ability to even conceive of the fact that they may be steered. I have seen people steer children for a number of reasons.

Perhaps the worst case I ever had involved a husband and wife who were going through a divorce that had lasted almost three years. The wife had three children with her former partner and obtained a new boyfriend about two-and-a-half years into the divorce process. Within a month of that new relationship, the new boyfriend (who became my client) was being investigated by the US Department of Children & Family Services and law enforcement due to an accusation of child abuse made by the three year old child. The child protection team became involved, and we asked them to look very carefully at it. No warrant was issued at the time. When the child was taken in and questioned, we learned that multiple times during the interview, the child looked up at the biological father and said, “That’s right, daddy, isn’t it?” That indicated that it was a coached, false allegation.

We were very fortunate to be able to get involved early on and point out things to the Department of Children & Family Services that they might not have otherwise known about. As a result, we were able to kill a warrant before it was issued. Imagine the terror of facing a capital sexual battery charge with a minimum mandatory life in prison sentence and a coached witness between the ages of three and three-and-a-half. When children at that age are dragged into a courtroom by the prosecution, rest assured they are looking about as cute as they possibly can, and they have gone over the testimony multiple times. In some cases, their testimony is allowed without them being physically present, which is incredibly problematic. In the case I was describing, we were very fortunate that the man was not criminally charged. But it was an utterly terrifying experience for him and a large number of other people.

The presence of mental illness can also lead to false accusations. I represented one man who sat in jail for over six months on false charges. The mother of the child involved brought us volumes of records from the child’s psychologist that noted things like, “Still has a problem with lying. Told me today that she did very well in school and followed all of her instructions. I contacted the school and spoke with the teacher directly, and none of that was true.” This was replicated over several years’ worth of medical records. Meanwhile, my client had been refused bond and was sitting in jail on a false allegation. Ultimately, the charge was dismissed. This particular young woman had multiple mental illnesses that started in early childhood and became progressively worse throughout her teen years. The last I heard, she was in a lockdown unit at the state hospital and had been for two or three years.

It’s important to note that just because someone is mentally ill, it doesn’t mean that their claim of child abuse is false. At the same time, mental illness can absolutely affect a witness’s perception of events, their ability to accurately recount factual information and their ability to separate facts from fiction. We look for a lot of different things in these types of cases. The number of false allegations is shockingly high, yet the news media makes it seem like every time somebody makes a claim of sex abuse or child abuse, it’s absolutely true, has been covered up for decades and is just now coming to life. What the media is not talking about is the large number of people, men and women who have been falsely accused and had their reputations ruined. Even if they were found not guilty at trial or were never in fact formally charged, the stain of a false allegation can linger for a lifetime.

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 False Accusations Of 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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