Child Abuse Crimes in Pinellas County

What happens when child abuse is reported to the authorities in Pinellas County, FL? After an allegation, law enforcement officers will begin an investigation. Officers and other authorities might travel to the child’s home or school to interview the child. The law enforcement officers will visit the person accused to ask them questions about the allegations.

If anyone attempts to hide the child from the authorities investigating a child abuse allegation, or otherwise make the child unavailable, Florida law authorizes court action, which might include a judge in dependency court authorizing the authorities to remove the child from their home and place them with alternate caregivers or in foster care.

If the officers develop probable cause that child abuse occurred, the officers will arrest the suspect. The person arrested will not immediately be able to bond out of jail. Instead, they must wait for the court to set the pretrial release and bond conditions, which often include a provision that the accused can have “no contact” with the child while the case is pending.

The accused can hire a private attorney to represent them at the first appearance, called the “advisory hearing” in Pinellas County, FL.

The State Attorney’s Office in Pinellas County, FL, provides legal services for the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in order to protect children in Pinellas Counties who have been abused or neglected by their parents.

Assistant State Attorneys in the Sixth Judicial Circuit are selected to work in the Child Welfare Legal Services divisions to provide legal services performed on behalf of the State of Florida.

The services are provided in all juvenile dependency and termination of parental rights proceedings governed by Chapter 39, F.S., the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure, Section 409.1451, F.S.

Many of these allegations begin with someone making a complaint to the Florida Abuse Hotline.

Attorney for Child Abuse in Pinellas County, FL

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent people accused of child abuse or neglect throughout Pinellas County, FL.

Many of these cases involve false or exaggerated child abuse reports. We are familiar with the tactics used by officers with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Child Protection Investigation Division (CPID).

Our goal in these cases is to help the person accused. Taking a proactive approach often results in the investigation being closed without action or the charges being dropped.

Being proactive might involve successfully completing child abuse counseling on a voluntary basis early in the case.

Contact us to discuss the charges pending against you, possible defenses, and the best ways to protect your rights.

For violent crimes in Pinellas County, FL, contact us to find out more. Visit our office at 14010 Roosevelt Blvd Suite 701, Clearwater, FL 33762-3820, near the CJC Courthouse on 49th Street. 

Call 727-210-7004.

Definition of Child Abuse Crimes in Florida

Under Florida law, the term “child abuse” is defined as the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child or an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to:

  • result in physical or mental injury to a child; or
  • the active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results in or could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.

The most common categories of child abuse include:

  • physical abuse or neglect;
  • emotional abuse or neglect; or
  • sexual abuse.

Child neglect crimes involve a parent’s failure to provide a child with care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health.

Many of these cases include the failure to provide food, shelter, medicine, or other things that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child.

Crimes for aggravated child abuse involve the willful torture, malicious punishment, or unlawful caging of a child or if the person knowingly or willfully abuses a child and causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child.

Florida’s Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Child Care Providers

Certain types of professionals are required by Florida law to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect to the Florida Abuse Hotline. See Chapter 39.201 of the Florida Statutes.

The term “child abuse or neglect” is defined in Section 39.201, F.S., as “harm or threatened harm” to a child’s mental or physical health or welfare by the acts or omissions committed by a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare, or for purposes of reporting requirements by any other person.

If the professional fails to perform their duties as a mandatory reporter pursuant to s 39.201, F.S., they might be charged with a violation of the standards in Sections 402.301-319, F.S. Those violations can be charged as a third degree felony.

Florida’s Department of Children Family Services to find “Training Requirements.” The DCF website has a 4-hour course for child care providers focused on how to identify and report child abuse and neglect.

The educational course explains the legal responsibility of mandatory reporters in Florida who suspect child abuse or neglect as outlined in Section 402-305 (2) and 402.313(1), F.S.

The Child Protection Investigation Division – CPID

The Child Protection Investigation Division (CPID) of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office investigates reports of child abuse and neglect.

The Sheriff’s Office employs Child Protection Investigators (CPIs) to investigate claims of abuse. CPIs are tasked with determining whether the case should be referred for further action to protect the child.

The CPI might find the allegations unsubstantiated and close the investigation without taking action. In other cases, the CPI might develop a safety plan regarding who can care for the child.

The case will be referred for dependency court intervention in the most serious cases.

The main offices of the Child Protection Investigations Division at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office are at 8550 Ulmerton Road, Suite 255, Largo, FL, 33771.

In 2023, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office arrested one of its former child protective investigators for falsifying official documents during a child abuse investigation.

The division has high turnover rates and crushing caseloads. As a result, mistakes in these child abuse investigations are common.

Independent Living Matters for Children in Pinellas County, FL

Those proceedings govern independent living matters for children under eighteen (18) or otherwise properly heard in dependency court, as well as all proceedings pursuant to the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure, including but not limited to:

  • adjudicatory hearings
  • appeals of cases brought pursuant to Chapter 39, F.S.
  • case planning
  • judicial reviews
  • mediation
  • medication
  • modification of placements
  • motions pertaining to care
  • placement
  • protective supervision, foster care
  • shelter hearings
  • termination of parental rights

Additional Resources

PSCO’s Child Protection Investigation Division – Visit the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office website to learn more about the child protection investigation division under the leadership of Lieutenant Scott Matthews.

This article was last updated on Friday, January 5, 2024.