BUSINESS LAW 101 / Abuse of Children

By Albert L. Kelley, Esq.

Albert Kelley

There are three major abuse statutes in Florida law. Any abuse is inexcusable, but to abuse someone that is particularly vulnerable and unable to defend themselves is despicable.  A couple of articles ago, I wrote about Florida Statute 825 which covers abuse of elderly and disabled persons.  This week we are looking at Florida Statute 827 which covers abuse of children.

Abuse of children takes many forms and the statute tries to address it in all of its forms.  First, the statute covers physical and mental abuse.  “Child abuse” means (1) 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. While physical injury is easy to define, mental injury is more difficult.  The statute takes this in consideration as it defines mental injury as “injury to the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child as evidenced by a discernible and substantial impairment in the ability of the child to function within the normal range of performance and behavior as supported by expert testimony.”

Child abuse can be raised to aggravated child abuse if the abuse is deemed aggravated battery, if the person willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cages a child, or if the person knowingly or willfully abuses a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child.

The statute also covers child neglect.  Neglect is defined as the failure or omission to provide a child with the 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 well-being of the child; or  the failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.

Child neglect and child abuse are deemed third degree felonies.  Child abuse that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to the child is deemed a second-degree felony and aggravated child abuse is deemed a first-degree felony.

If a person deserts a child, it is deemed a third-degree felony. However, there is an exception in the statute. If a parent leaves a newborn infant at a hospital, emergency medical services station, fire station or emergency room and expresses an intent to leave the infant and not return, it is not deemed neglect, and there is no penalty.

Another type of child abuse is to induce a child to commit a crime.  This is often referred to as contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  A person who commits any act which causes, tends to cause, encourages, or contributes to a child becoming a delinquent or a dependent child or induces or endeavors to induce a child to commit or perform any act, follow any course of conduct, or live in a manner that causes or tends to cause such child to become or to remain a dependent or delinquent child or a child in need of services, commits a misdemeanor of the first degree.

The last type of abuse is sexual in nature. We have already discussed in an earlier column the statutory rape provision. However, there are two areas in the child abuse statute that deal with sexual situations.  The first is where a person over 21 impregnates a person under 16.  In addition to any other charge that may be brought, this carries a third-degree felony charge. The other abuse charges related to sexual activity involves the use of a child in a sexual performance.  The use of a child in any sexual performance, including play, motion picture, photograph, or dance or any other visual representation, or the consent of a child to participate in a sexual performance by a parent or guardian is a second-degree felony. Possessing or viewing any photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, image, data, computer depiction, or other presentation involving a minor in a sexual performance is a third-degree felony, and possession with an intent to distribute is a second-degree felony.

Al Kelley is a Florida business law attorney located in Key West and previously taught business law, personnel law, and labor law at St. Leo University.  He is the author of five law books available through Absolutely Amazing E-Books and the host of “Basics Of The Law”, a weekly YouTube channel. This article is being offered as a public service and is not intended to provide specific legal advice.  If you have any questions about legal issues, you should confer with a licensed Florida attorney.