The way a society defines child abuse says a lot about the premium it places on the protection of children. Here in the U.S., keeping our children safe is considered a top priority, which is obviously something to be applauded.
However, the way that child abuse laws are written, there is a great potential to apply them in an overly-broad manner, which in turn sometimes results in good parents being ensnared in very serious felony allegations. An arrest for a crime of this nature has the potential to result in the loss of one’s job, child custody rights, reputation and freedom – and that’s even before there has been a conviction.
Palm Beach criminal defense lawyers recognize that parents have differing manners of discipline. Sometimes those methods can be misinterpreted. Sometimes we make mistakes and go a bit too far in a moment of frustration. It doesn’t mean we’re bad parents and it certainly doesn’t mean we’re criminals.
However, because authorities are so aggressive in pursuing these cases, even an anonymous allegation can snowball into a very serious case.
Recently, a mother in Boynton Beach was arrested after police say she struck her 10-year-old son with a belt and then forced him to hold a heavy rock for several hours. The actions were reportedly punishment for the fact that he had deliberately damaged his brother’s church outfit.
It’s not clear how the Department of Children and Families became apprised of the situation, but an investigator noted the child had two scratches on his face. He told the case worker that his back hurt from the “whooping.”
His 49-year-old mother was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse, as defined in Florida Statute 827.03. The law indicates that aggravated abuse of a child is when a person commits aggravated battery on a child, willfully tortures, cages or maliciously punishes a child or knowingly and willfully abuses a child to the point that it causes great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement to the child.
Aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony, which can be punished by up to 30 years in prison upon conviction. In cases where the child has not been significantly harmed, authorities may choose to charge the case as a third-degree felony, in which case the maximum sentence is five years in prison. Either way, it’s not a situation for which you want to go to court unprepared.
There are some cases in which having a good attorney can result in the charges being dropped altogether before you even get to the trial phase.
Recently in Davie, a police officer returned to work after being placed on paid administrative leave for eight months amid allegations that he struck his two teenage daughters in an argument over a Bible. At the time of the incident, the officer was reportedly on duty and not supposed to be at home.
He had initially been fired after his arrest on misdemeanor battery charges. However, he was reinstated after the state attorney’s office announced prosecutors would decline to press charges for lack of evidence and the fact that the daughters did not wish to press any charges. The officer denied the incident had unfolded the way it was originally described.
Allegations of child abuse can quickly get out-of-hand, as this case shows. Defending yourself is important not only to avoiding incarceration, but also to restoring your family.
If you are charged with child abuse in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Boynton woman hits boy, forces him to hold heavy rock, police say, Oct. 30, 2013, By Adam Sacasa, Sun Sentinel
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