Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect in Florida

Florida imposes a legal duty upon every person to report known or suspected acts of child abuse or neglect to authorities.

In Florida, the crime of Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect occurs when a mandatory reporter knowingly and willfully fails to report known or suspected acts of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect to the Florida Abuse Hotline. [1]

Mandatory Reporter

A common misconception is that only health professionals, child welfare workers, and teachers are considered mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect.

However, under Florida Statute 39.201(1), a mandatory reporter is defined as any person who knows, or has reasonable suspicion to believe, that a child has been abused, abandoned, or neglected by an adult responsible for the child’s welfare.

The only difference is that while every person is required to report known or suspected child abuse to the Florida Abuse Hotline, a lay person is not required to provide their name when doing so, whereas a health professional, child welfare worker, or teacher is required to provide their name when making the report. [2]

Penalties for Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect

In Florida, the crime of Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect is a Third Degree Felony punishable by up to five (5) years in prison, five (5) years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.

Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect is assigned a Level 1 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code and a judge may sentence a person convicted of Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect to probation, but may also impose a sentence up to the statutory maximum of five years in prison.

Defenses to Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, common defenses to the crime of Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect include:

Lack of Reasonable Suspicion

While a person has a mandatory duty to report known acts of child abuse or neglect, such as when a child specifically states they have been abused or neglected, a person is not required to report suspected acts of child abuse that are based solely on gossip, rumor, or speculation.

Rather, a person is only required to report suspected child abuse or neglect if reasonable suspicion exists to support the belief that abuse or neglect occurred.

Reasonable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion in the context of Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect has not been specifically defined by Florida's appellate courts, but there are numerous appellate decisions defining reasonable suspicion in general terms, which would likely be applied by the courts.

Under the general legal standard, reasonable suspicion would exist if a person knew of articulable and objective facts supporting a belief that abuse or neglect occurred. [3]

As a result, while a lay person may be allowed to accept an innocent explanation from a parent regarding a child's injury; a doctor, child welfare worker, or teacher would not be allowed to accept an innocent explanation that conflicts with their specialized training in determining whether reasonable suspicion exists to believe the child was abused or neglected. [4]

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect in Central Florida or the Greater Orlando area, contact Criminal Defense Lawyer today.

The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.

References

  1. Florida Statute 39.205
  2. Florida Statute 39.201(1)(d)
  3. Majors v. State, 70 So. 3d 655, 660 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011)
  4. Urquhart v. Helmich, 947 So. 2d 539, 543 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006)