PENSACOLA, FL (November 4, 2019) writes that police arrested a 30-year-old woman in Pensacola, Florida, on allegations of aggravated child abuse. The suspect has several children, one of whom arrived at school with bruises and lacerations on her face. The child’s teacher reported the girl’s condition leading to the mother’s arrest. The woman is now being held in the Escambia County jail. No bond has been set.

The Department of Children and Families initiated an investigation. The child, whose age is not known, was transported to the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, where she told investigators that her mother had gotten angry and used a stick to strike her in the face. The child said she was knocked to the ground by the blow. A medical exam performed on the girl indicated other injuries to her body.

The child and her siblings are now in DCF custody.

Florida Aggravated Child Abuse Laws

Aggravated Child Abuse in Florida consists of committing aggravated battery against a child, torturing a child, maliciously punishing a child, caging a child, or causing permanent disability, great bodily harm, or disfigurement to a child. The abuse need not be committed by a parent or guardian; prosecutors can decide at their discretion whether to try any crime that would be Felony Battery against an adult as Aggravated Child Abuse.

The crime of Aggravated Child Abuse is categorized as a first-degree felony with the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, 30 years of probation, and a fine up to $10,000. As a Level 9 offense, a judge must sentence a person convicted of this crime to a minimum of 48 months in prison unless there are grounds for reducing the sentence.

When a person is tried for Aggravated Child Abuse, one common defense is Parental Privilege. The law gives parents and individuals standing in loco parentis, such as teachers, the right to discipline a child. Disciplining a child with physical punishment is legal, but once the injury from the discipline exceeds that of a minor bruise, the privilege is no longer an adequate defense.

Of course, there are defenses such as factual disputes or false allegations that can apply to any criminal allegations, as well.

According to statistics kept by the DCF, in 2018 through 2019, the agency investigated 130,218 cases of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Out of all of those investigations, only 10,501 led to DCF interventions. Many of these investigations are sparked by calls to the Department’s hotline. Under Florida law, any individual who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused, neglected, or abandoned by a parent or caregiver is legally obligated to report their knowledge by calling the Florida Abuse Hotline.

Allegations of child abuse have severe consequences, and anyone facing these charges will require an experienced legal advocate.