Child Abuse

Child abuse is a national problem. According to the national Center for Child Abuse Information 40 children are wounded or killed by gunfire everyday in the United States. Every 47 seconds a child is abused or neglected. This problem has prompted the Florida legislature to create a complex web of child abuse statutes. Federal criminal law has no similar set of criminal statutes. In Florida, each circuit court jurisdiction is responsible for enforcement of child abuse statutes throughout the State of Florida: by example the 17th judicial circuit in Broward County which encompasses Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Davie, Weston, Pompano Beach and other towns has its’ own State Attorney's office (prosecutor) and Police Department. These agencies arrest and charge people with violations of criminal law under relevant Florida criminal statutes. Similarly, where I practice law, Miami has its own State Attorney's office which enforces Florida criminal law. Local criminal defense attorneys in Florida appear in all local criminal courts. Some courts in Fort Lauderdale are specifically designated for prosecution of child abuse and child neglect cases. Similarly Miami has special units that are criminal courts that focus on child abuse issues.

Child Abuse Enhancements

Child abuse is the willful or negligent infliction of harm or the infliction of harm by depriving a child of necessary food clothing and shelter or medical treatment. In Florida the infliction of physical harm, a battery or assault is punished under Florida criminal law under the relevant battery and assault criminal statutory scheme. The use of a weapon enhances all child abuse charges. The enhancements include use of a weapon (other THAN a firearm), a firearm (which increases the punishment beyond that of use of a weapon), or such negligent disregard for the safety of the child which rises to criminal negligence. Federal criminal courts do not pursue child abuse cases. Federal criminal law and federal criminal defense attorneys do not generally see child abuse cases. For that reason Florida federal criminal courts are rarely used as a venue in Florida for the enforcement of child abuse and child neglect crimes.

Child Abuse and Drug Crimes

Possession of cocaine, possession of oxycodone, trafficking in cocaine: all these criminal possession and drug possession statutes are enhanced if committed in the presence of a child. Child abuse includes exposing a child to cocaine or using cocaine in the presence of a child. Likewise driving under the influence with a child in the automobile is prosecuted in Florida criminal courts throughout Fort Lauderdale, and Miami, as aggravated child abuse. Florida federal criminal courts do not have similar Florida federal criminal statutes. Domestic violence committed in the presence of the child is also prosecuted in Florida criminal courts as child abuse. It can be aggravated child abuse is the child witnesses extreme violence or suffers severe or even moderate psychological harm.

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