Definition of Child Neglect

Under Section 827.03. Florida Statutes, child neglect is defined as “[a] caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health.”

Statutory examples include a failure to provide:

  • Food and nutrition;
  • Clothing;
  • Shelter;
  • Supervision;
  • Medicine and medical services.

Child Neglect may also occur as a result of “[a] caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.”

Required Proof (No Great Bodily Harm)

To prove Child Neglect, the prosecution must establish the following three elements:

  1. The defendant: (a) willfully or by culpable negligence failed or omitted to provide the alleged victim with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the victim’s physical or mental health; or (b) failed to make a reasonable effort to protect the alleged victim from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person;
  2. The defendant was the “caregiver” for the alleged victim; and
  3. The alleged victim was under 18 years of age.
  • See Fla. Std Jury Instr. 16.6.

Culpable Negligence vs. Negligence

As the term implies, ‘culpable negligence’ involves a higher degree of fault or responsibility than ordinary civil negligence.

Culpable negligence is defined as a “failure to use reasonable care on behalf of another when such failure is gross or flagrant. The negligence must be committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others.”

Repeated Conduct

Neglect of a child may be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident or omission that resulted in, or reasonably could have been expected to result in, serious physical or mental injury, or a substantial risk of death, to a child.

Caregiver Requirement

Florida law requires that the defendant be a “caregiver,” which is defined as a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare.

Penalties for Child Neglect

All criminal offenses in Florida charged as “Neglect of a Child” are classified as felonies.

No Great Bodily Harm

Where the neglect or abuse does not result in great bodily harm, the charge is a third degree felony, with penalties up to 5 years in prison or 5 years of probation and a $5,000 fine.

Great Bodily Harm

Where great bodily harm occurs, the charge is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison or 15 years probation and a $10,000 fine.

Defenses to a Child Neglect Charge

There are numerous defenses available to contest a charge of child neglect, including:

  • The defendant’s acts were not willful, or sufficiently flagrant or negligent;
  • Reasonable efforts were made to protect the child from abuse or neglect;
  • The defendant is not a “caregiver”;
  • The incident occurred as a result of an accident, mistake of fact, or misunderstanding;
  • The defendant under the reasonable impression that another person was supervising the child;
  • The defendant’s acts or omissions amount to mere negligence;
  • Lack of proof as to the acts, omissions, or mental state of the defendant;
  • The harm suffered in the course of the incident was not reasonably foreseeable;

Contact an Attorney

If you have been charged with Child Neglect in Jacksonville or the surrounding counties, contact Hussein & Webber, PL today for a free consultation.