Child Abuse and Neglect

Child Abuse and Neglect

An allegation of child abuse or neglect is not only terrifying, but it may be absolutely heartbreaking.  Not only are these kinds of cases sensitive to the parties closely involved, but they are also quite misunderstood.  As with any crime involving a child victim, these offenses carry a negative social stigma that can be difficult to overcome, outside of the criminal justice system.  There may be a rush to judgment by investigators, by family members, or by friends.  It may seem like no one understands, or wants to hear your story. 

Child Neglect

Many of us can admit that we have temporarily lost sight of our children - maybe in a grocery store, at a mall, or the park.  Your stomach drops, your heart skips a beat, and your eyes frantically search for that sweet, familiar face.    Then, you see that outfit you picked out this morning and breathe a sigh of relief- a false alarm.  But, what if it's not?  What if the child wanders off - maybe even gets hurt?  Have you committed a crime?


in the criminal justice system, there is often a “rush to judgment” in child neglect cases.  The State’s experts may conclude that a child’s injuries are the result of abuse or neglect, and they may potentially overlook alternate causes or explanations.     

What is child neglect?  

Neglect is defined as a caregiver’s failure to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health.  This includes, but is not limited to: food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a reasonable person would consider essential for the well-being of the child.  Child neglect also covers a caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.  This may occur, for example, where one parent is accused of abusing a child and the other parent is accused of being negligent for not reporting the abuse. 

What are the potential consequences?                 

Child neglect is a third-degree felony punishable by up to give years in prison and/or up to five years of State probation.  However, if the neglect results in great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement to the child, the charge becomes a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or 15 years of State probation.

                                                                            Read More Here: Florida State Statute 827.03

Child Abuse

What is Child Abuse?  

Child abuse falls under one of three categories:

  • The intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child;

  • An intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child; or

  • Actively encouraging another person to commit an act that results or could be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.

What are the potential consequences? 

Child abuse is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and/or five years of probation. 

Aggravated child abuse, a more serious offense, requires more aggravating factors, such as: willfully torturing, maliciously punishing, willfully and unlawfully caging (yes, caging) a child, or abusing a child in a manner that results in great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, or permanent disability.  Aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and/or up to 30 years on State probation.

                                                                              Read More Here: Florida State Statute 827.03

Defending a Child Abuse/Neglect Case

Often in a child abuse case, the child victim visits a hospital, medical clinic, or other service provider with injuries, but, because of their age, they are explain what happened.  

Because causation (what caused the injury) is such an important part of a child abuse or neglect case, they often require medical analysis and expert opinions.   This may help to determine the seriousness of the injury, as well as the likely cause.  A proper analysis of medical records may determine whether accidental injury can be ruled out.  Also, determining the exact timing of the injury is crucial in determining causation and fault. 

A thorough analysis is equally important in a neglect case, where the State must prove that the Accused's inaction was a cause of the harm.  For example, where malnourishment is alleged, timing may be a critical part of the defense theory.  Malnourishment is not an isolated event, but rather something that may occur over a period of weeks or months.  A detailed investigation is necessary to determine causation and to attribute fault to a specific person or persons.  

An effective defense to an allegation of child abuse or neglect may require witness interviews, review of medical records and opinions, depositions – including depositions of medical experts- and consultations with outside experts who may be able to challenge the State expert's conclusions and/or provide alternate explanations as to the source of the injury.

What can we do for you?

Attorney Benjamin Wurtzel is a Board-Certified Criminal Trial Expert and has personally handled cases involving both child abuse and child neglect. Mr. Wurtzel has experience in reviewing the typical kinds of records involved in these cases, including complex medical records, and can use those to determine the best course of defense in any case.  Mr. Wurtzel also has experience interviewing and deposing child victims, as well as trying cases in front of juries involving allegations of child abuse.   

The sensitive nature of these kinds of cases can impact negotiations with the State and/or the Court and also may makes it difficult to find an unbiased jury.  As a result, it is critical that you have a competent, thorough, and, when needed, aggressive, defense.

If you or someone you know has been accused of child abuse or neglect, call Wurtzel Law for a free consultation.  Mr. Wurtzel can discuss your case and explain how his experience and specific skills can be used to prepare your defense.   

An accusation of child abuse or neglect can be an isolating experience.  We can help.

Have Questions? Let Us Help.

Name *