For more than ten years, the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm have been representing parents, child care providers, and even school teachers against unfounded charges of child abuse. Any allegation of child abuse is taken seriously by the authorities, and rightly so. But not all allegations are well-founded.
The authorities have a difficult time distinguishing between the most serious cases that need immediate action and those less serious cases that need no action because the claim is false or exaggerated. If you were falsely accused of child abuse, then you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights during each stage of the case.
Under § 827.03(2)(c), Fla. Stat., the crime of child abuse requires proof of:
- intentionally inflicting physical or mental injury upon a child;
- committing an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child; or
- actively encouraging another person to commit an act that resulted in or could reasonably have been expected to result in physical or mental injury to the child.
Under Florida law, it is NOT a crime for a parent or a person who is acting in place of a parent to impose reasonable physical discipline on a child for misbehavior even though physical injury resulted from the discipline. Investigators have traditionally considered marks left on the child’s buttocks because of a spanking to be reasonable, but marks left on any other part of the body to be unreasonable.
Daycare providers and school officials have mandatory reporting requirements. Under some circumstances, the authorities can speak to your child without informing you in advance. Once the investigation begins, it feels like it takes on a life of its own.
Attorney for Child Abuse in Pasco County, FL
If you were accused of child abuse or neglect, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm, P.A. Our attorneys represent parents and caregivers accused of child abuse crimes prosecuted in New Port Richey or Dade City, FL. In addition to child abuse, we represent clients on related charges of domestic violence battery, neglect of a child, or contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
At Sammis Law Firm, our attorneys are familiar with the tactics used by the Child Protective Investigation (CPI) Section of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. We can help you during the earliest stage of the investigation.
If a “no contact” provision was added, we can help you petition the court to have it removed so that you can return to the home. If you were arrested for child abuse, we can work with the intake prosecutor at the State Attorney’s Office during the first 21 days after the arrest to show the prosecutor while charges should NOT be filed.
If you were already formally charged with child abuse or aggravated child abuse, we can help you fight those charges in the courtroom in New Port Richey or Dade City.
Let us put our experience to work for you.
Pasco’s Child Protective Investigation (CPI) Section
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office is one of only six sheriffs’ offices in the State of Florida that is authorized to investigate reports of child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect.
Many of the investigations of the Child Protective Investigators (CPI) in Pasco County are triggered by a report to the Florida Abuse Hotline, a statewide hotline. The Florida Abuse Hotline receives reports of alleged abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect. In 2019, the Child Protective Investigation (CPI) Section of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office investigated more than seven thousand (7,000) reports.
Mandatory reporters with a legal duty to report child abuse include certified educators, teachers, daycare providers, doctors and nurses, teachers, law enforcement officers, judges, counselors, therapists, and judges.
After the report of child abuse or neglect is received, the PSO’s Child Protective Investigations (CPI) Division investigates the case for the purpose of making sure that any child in the home is not experiencing abuse or neglect. The accusations are investigated by a CPI Trainee or Child Protective Investigations Supervisor.
In Pasco County, FL, the goal of Florida’s Child Protection System is to make sure that minor children under the age of 18 years old are living in homes that are safe from abuse or neglect. For a parent or caregiver being investigated, the goal is getting the investigation closed with a finding of no indication of child abuse or neglect as soon as possible.
Action CPI Takes in a Child Abuse or Domestic Violence Investigations
Depending on the case, CPI can take a wide range of actions. First, CPI can close the case after finding no indication of child abuse or neglect.
Alternatively, CPI might recommend a safety plan or referral to community resources such as in-home counseling or therapy. For example, CPI might encourage any alleged victim of domestic violence to obtain a protective order against the alleged abuser in Pasco County, FL.
In the most extreme cases, the Child Protective Investigators might determine that voluntary services will not alleviate the level of threatened harm to the child. In those cases, court-ordered services may be considered including removing the child from the home.
Any recommendation that the child is removed from the home by the Child Protective Investigator (CPI) in Pasco County, FL, is reviewed by the investigator’s supervisor and a representative of the State Attorney’s Office in the Sixth Judicial Circuit.
In those cases, in which the child is removed from the home, the CPI and State Attorney will present the case to a dependency judge within 24 hours of removal from the child’s parents or legal guardian at a shelter hearing.
What is the Different Between CPI and the Child Protection Team of Pasco?
The PSO’s CPI unit works closely with the Child Protection Team in Pasco County which is a separate agency. The Child Protection Team conducts forensic interviews and psychological assessments to document the alleged abuse.
Under Florida law, the reports from Pasco Kids First are only released to Child Protective Investigators, Law Enforcement, the State Attorney’s Office, or those involved in the furtherance of the treatment of the child.
Nevertheless, the criminal defense attorney can easily get a court order to compel those records if any charges are filed related to those allegations.
False Reports to the Florida Abuse Hotline
If someone makes a false report to the Florida Abuse Hotline, then law enforcement officers might be notified to investigate whether or not the person knowingly and willfully made a false report of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.
Under §§39.205(9), 415.111(5), Florida Statutes, any person who willfully and knowingly makes a false report of child abuse, abandonment, neglect, or abuse of a vulnerable adult, or who advises another to make a false report, is guilty of a felony of the third degree.
On the other hand, under §§39.205(9), 415.111(5)(b), Florida Statutes, anyone making a report who is acting in good faith is immune from any liability.
Aggravated Child Abuse Crimes in Pasco County, FL
The crime of aggravated child abuse is described in § 827.03(2)(a), Fla. Stat. The elements of the crime of Aggravated Child Abuse, include:
- committed aggravated battery upon a child;
- willfully tortured a child;
- maliciously punished a child;
- willfully and unlawfully put the child in a cage;
- knowingly or willfully committed child abuse and caused great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.
Under § 827.03(1)(b), Fla. Stat., the term “child abuse” is defined in § 827.03(2)(c), Fla. Stat.
Child Protection Team at Pasco Kids First – In Pasco County, FL, the Child Protection Team at Pasco Kids First provides specialized and expert child abuse assessments for high-risk physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect cases. The team includes medical and social work staff who help the Child Protection Investigators at the Pasco Sheriff’s Office to determine if a child is in a safe environment.
Florida’s Child Abuse Hotline – Many reports of child abuse are reported by school officials or daycare providers to the Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-96-ABUSE. Reports can also be submitted by clicking on the “How to Report Abuse” button for further instructions.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, September 1, 2020.