Child Abuse Crimes in Pasco
For over fifteen years, the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm have represented parents, guardians, childcare providers, school teachers, and certified educators against unfounded child abuse charges.
Any allegation of child abuse is taken seriously by the authorities, and rightly so. But not all allegations are well-founded or made in good faith.
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, 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.
Child abuse charged under § 827.03(2)(c), Fla. Stat., is a third degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison.
Under Florida law, it is NOT a crime for a parent or a person 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 reasonable but marks left on any other part of the body 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 might feel like it takes on its own life.
Attorney for Child Abuse in Pasco County, FL
If you were accused of child abuse or neglect, 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 and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF).
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 remove it so you or another family member 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 why charges should NOT be filed.
If you were already formally charged with child abuse or aggravated child abuse, we could help you fight those charges in the courtroom in New Port Richey or Dade City.
Let us put our experience to work for you.
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.
Pasco’s Child Protective Investigation (CPI) Section
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office is one of only six sheriff’s offices in the State of Florida authorized to investigate reports of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.
Many of the Child Protective Investigators (CPI) investigations 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 child abuse or neglect report is received, the PSO’s Child Protective Investigations (CPI) Division investigates the case to ensure that any child in the home is not experiencing abuse or neglect.
A CPI Trainee or Child Protective Investigations Supervisor investigates the accusations.
In Pasco County, FL, the goal of Florida’s Child Protection System is to ensure that minor children under 18 years old are living in homes that are safe from abuse or neglect.
For a parent or caregiver being investigated, the goal is to make sure the investigation is closed with a finding of no indication of child abuse or neglect.
CPI’s Actions in a Child Abuse or Domestic Violence Investigation
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 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 cases where 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, a separate agency. The Child Protection Team conducts forensic interviews and psychological assessments to document the alleged abuse, including both sexual abuse and physical 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 child’s treatment.
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
Suppose someone makes a false report to the Florida Abuse Hotline. In that case, law enforcement officers might be notified to investgate 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.
Failing to Report Child Abuse in Pasco
Section 39.205(20 prohibits a person from knowingly and willfully failing to report child abuse when:
- the court does not find that the person is a victim of domestic violence or that other mitigating circumstances exist.
- the person knows or suspects the child to be a victim of child abuse, neglect of a child, or aggravated child abuse;
- the person is 18 years of age or older; and
- the person lives in the same house or living unit as a child.
A failure to report child support under Section 39.205(1) or (2) is classified as a felony in the third degree, punishable by up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison.
Section 39.205(1) prohibits a professional from knowingly and willfully failing to report known or suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect to the central abuse hotline.
The statute also prohibits a professional from knowingly and willfully preventing another person from failing to report known or suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect to the central abuse hotline.
Read more about crimes for failing to report child abuse in Florida.
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 – School officials or daycare providers report many reports of child abuse to the Florida Abuse Hotline 1-800-96-ABUSE. Reports can be submitted by clicking the “How to Report Abuse” button for further instructions.
This article was last updated on Monday, May 1, 2023.