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Sammis Law Firm

Child Abuse Crimes in St. Petersburg

The four attorneys at Sammis Law Firm focus exclusively on criminal defense. We are experienced in defending parents and caregivers charged with child abuse crimes in St. Petersburg, FL, including investigations involving the St. Petersburg Police Department.

When it comes to child abuse and neglect investigations by officers with the St. Petersburg Police Department, the initial investigation is usually the responsibility of Uniform Services Bureau (USB) personnel. A Child Protective Investigator (CPI) with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office might also be present.

When officers with the St. Pete Police Department are dispatched to investigate any allegation of child abuse or neglect, the officers must conduct a complete criminal investigation in conformity with the procedures outlined in General Order Number V.3:2 which operates as the agency’s standard operating procedures.

The failure to properly follow those procedures might result in important defenses that might lead to the exclusion or suppression of evidence.

Attorney for Child Abuse in St. Petersburg, FL

After a child abuse or neglect investigation begins, contact the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm. We can help you determine whether the proper procedures were followed, whether sufficient evidence supports the accusations, and the best defenses to fight for an outright dismissal of the charges.

Our attorneys represent clients in Pinellas County, FL, charged with child abuse, aggravated child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

We can also represent when a Child Protective Investigator (CPI) with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office comes knocking on your door. The main goal in these cases is convincing the investigating officer and CPI that the accusations are “unfounded.”

Call 813-250-0500.


Investigations by St. Petersburg Police Department’s CPI

According to the general order of the St. Petersburg Police Department, Instructional Order V.3:2, the term “Child Protective Investigator (CPI)” is defined as an employee of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) or an employee of an agency contracted by the DCF to conduct the investigation of child abuse, abandonment or neglect.

The Pinellas County agent for DCF is the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

The CPI is not a sworn Law Enforcement Officer and does not conduct a criminal investigation. Instead, the CPI is responsible for a social investigation to determine if the child victim should be removed from the home and/or if siblings are in jeopardy.


Definitions for Child Abuse Investigations in St. Pete, FL

The phrase “child abuse” is defined in §827.03, F.S.S., as:

  1. the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child;
  2. an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child; or
  3. active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results, or could reasonably be expected to result,
    in physical or mental injury to a child; or
  4. A person twenty-one (21) years of age or older who impregnates a child under sixteen (16) years of age.

The term “child” is defined in §827.01, F.S.S., as any person under the age of eighteen (18) years.

The term “caregiver” is defined in §827.01, F.S.S., as a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.

The phrase “aggravated child abuse” is defined in §827.03, F.S.S., as when a person commits aggravated battery on a child; or

  1. Knowingly or willfully abuses a child; or
  2. Willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages a child; and
  3. In so doing, causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child.

Rules for the Investigating Officer for Child Abuse in St. Pete, FL

The investigating officer with the St. Petersburg Police Department must follow procedures outlined in the general order when conducting a child abuse or neglect investigation.

The officers are not permitted to rely only on the child abuse investigation conducted by the CPI. Instead, the officer must conduct their own complete investigation which includes:

  • documenting the complete names, home, business, and school addresses, phone numbers, and all other pertinent information concerning the victim, witness, suspect, and CPI;
  • interviewing any witnesses and the suspect;
  • securing the scene;
  • taking photographs;
  • securing any physical evidence;  (e.g., electric cords used to whip a child or other instruments used to inflict punishment);
  • an interview with the child and, depending upon the age and sex of the child; and
  • a visual inspection of the child for any injuries, with particular attention given to evidence of earlier injuries.

First, the officer must cooperate and share information with the CPI. The officer must make sure that the required notification is submitted to the Florida Abuse Hotline by phone or through an online submission to https://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us/.

For online submissions using the DCF website, the officer must attach an electronic PDF file of the police report, using the DCF website’s file attachment feature.

If the abuse is aggravated or involves a sexual battery, then the officer must contact the Sergeant in the Crimes Against Children Unit (CACU) during regular business hours. After normal work hours, the on-call Investigative Services Bureau Supervisor must be contacted.

When filing the appropriate police report, the report is titled, “Child Abuse” if founded, or “Child Abuse-Unfounded” if unfounded.

The report shall not be titled Police Information (PINFO), “Assist Outside Agency,” or “Call for Assistance” in any allegation involving child abuse alleged to have occurred within the City of St. Petersburg, unless the officer’s presence is:

  • merely for security when the CPI is removing a child; or
  • while a CPI is obtaining a urine test, when an “Assist Outside Agency” is permitted.

Officers may unfound an alleged child abuse when the facts fail to support the elements of the crime.

The investigating officer is required to clearly document the rationale regarding finding the accusations to be unfounded, and particularly, address which elements of the crime have not been met.

If the investigation determines the case to be unfounded, there is no requirement to have the scene photographed, nor must it be reported to the Child Abuse Hotline. However, if any injuries are noted, even if the investigation does not support an allegation of abuse, photographs shall be taken.

The inability to make contact with the victim is insufficient to unfound a report.


Assisting Other Jurisdictions in Child Abuse Investigations

The St. Petersburg Police Department, pursuant to an interagency agreement, has agreed that it shall conduct an initial investigation into an alleged child abuse, even if the child was victimized outside of the City of St. Petersburg.

For example, officers with the St. Petersburg Police Department will visit a child victim if the child is currently residing within the city limited.

The assigned officer will conduct a preliminary investigation to establish sufficient facts to evaluate the allegation, giving particular attention to the severity of the alleged offense, the availability of witnesses, and the existence of physical evidence requiring timely handling.


Crimes for Neglect of a Child in St. Peterburg, FL

According to the general order of the St. Petersburg Police Department, Instructional Order V.3:2(3)(a), the crime of “Neglect of a Child” is defined in §827.03, F.S.S., as:

  • a caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the wellbeing of the child; or,
  • the caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect or
    exploitation by another person.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, September 15, 2021.

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