Yes, You Can Go To Prison For Failing To Report Child Abuse Or Neglect
Reports from members of the public are an important first step in many criminal investigations. Whistleblowers have stopped financial crime operations before they could steal or defraud people out of more money. Tips from neighbors or family members about someone they had reason to believe was plotting a violent crime have saved lives. Likewise, child abuse thrives on silence and only ends when adults are willing to work together to get children out of abusive situations. Because it is unfair to expect minors to notify authorities of the mistreatment they are experiencing, adults who had seen evidence of child abuse or neglect have a legal responsibility to report it; failure to do this can result in criminal penalties. The point of crime reporting lines is not to encourage false accusations, but to assist with investigations; law enforcement will corroborate all information provided in reports before seeking a search warrant or arrest warrant. If you have reported an incident of child abuse or are considering reporting one and have questions about the legal consequences, contact a West Palm Beach family violence offenses lawyer.
Reporting Requirements Are Not Just for Healthcare Workers and School Employees
Florida Statute 39.205 defines the crime of Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect as a third-degree felony, with a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine, five years in prison, and five years of probation. It requires adults who see evidence of child abuse or neglect to contact the Child Abuse Hotline. The reporting requirement applies if you directly witness child abuse, such as if you see a parent or caregiver hitting or otherwise intentionally injuring a child. It also applies if you see evidence that is strong enough that a reasonable person would know that it is an indication of abuse or neglect, such as if a child has an injury that is unlikely to have resulted from an accident and the child or his or her caregivers are evasive about how the injury happened.
If you are an employee of a school, day care center, doctor’s office, or hospital, and you see evidence of abuse or neglect of a child in your employer’s care (whether you suspect that the abuse occurred at the child’s home environment or school environment), you must give your name when notifying the Child Abuse Hotline. Adults who have met the alleged victim in another context (such as living in the same neighborhood or attending the same church) still have a legal responsibility to report abuse or neglect, but they may do so anonymously. Anyone about whom you express suspicion has the right to a fair investigation and, if he or she receives criminal charges, to due process of law.
Contact a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Attorney William Wallshein has more than 38 years of experience, including five years as a prosecutor in Palm Beach County. Contact William Wallshein P.A. in West Palm Beach, Florida to discuss your case.