There are two levels of child abuse charges: Child Abuse and Aggravated Child Abuse. Both are felonies and both are punishable by years in prison.
For all child abuse cases in Okaloosa County, you will be prosecuted by a specialized prosecution team from the Children’s Advocacy Center in Niceville. These prosecutors, police officers, and child protection team members all work together with one common goal: sending anyone who hurts a child to prison for a very long time.
While it is hard to argue with the noble goal of protecting kids, the problem comes up when otherwise innocent people get prosecuted for something they didn’t know was illegal. Most commonly, corporal punishment, or spanking. There is a lot of grey area about where the line is between lawful corporal punishment and actual abuse. All too often, the prosecutors in Okaloosa County come down on the side of calling corporal punishment abuse.
Once that happens, you are in danger of losing your kids pursuant to a Dependency proceeding along with facing a lengthy prison sentence in criminal court.
What Is Considered Child Abuse Under Florida Law?
Child Abuse cases in Okaloosa County and throughout Florida are prosecuted under Florida Statute 827.03(1)(b) which defines Child Abuse as:
“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 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.”
How Is Aggravated Child Abuse Different?
Florida Statute 827.03(1)(a) states that Aggravated Child Abuse occurs when a person:
“Commits aggravated battery on a child, willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or unlawfully cages a child, or knowingly or willfully abuses a child and in so doing cause great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disability to a child.”
What Penalty Am I Facing for Child Abuse or Aggravated Child Abuse in Okaloosa County?
Child abuse is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5000 fine. It is a level 6 offense under the Sentencing Guidelines so it scores 36 points. Even though that is less than the 44 point cutoff for mandatory prison time, the Okaloosa County prosecutors routinely seek jail or prison time in child abuse cases.
Aggravated Child Abuse is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Under the Sentencing Guidelines, it is a level 9 offense that scores at least 92 points depending on the severity of the child’s injuries. A level 9 offense requires a mandatory prison sentence of at least 48 months if you are convicted as charged.
If you or a loved one has been charged with Child Abuse in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield at (850) 243-6097. We will be glad to meet with you and talk about your situation confidentially.