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Tampa Family Lawyer > Blog > Criminal > Disciplining Your Child in Florida: When Does Discipline Cross the Line and Become Abuse?

Disciplining Your Child in Florida: When Does Discipline Cross the Line and Become Abuse?


If you have been accused of child abuse, it’s important that you take the charge seriously. Florida statutes define child abuse as the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury. If you are convicted of willful child abuse, it’s a felony and you could be sentenced to time in prison.

You may be inclined to think that you can defend yourself as you were just disciplining your child and therefore won’t be found guilty. Don’t attempt to handle a child abuse charge yourself. Contact a skilled Tampa criminal attorney right away.

Determining Whether it’s Discipline or Abuse

Being found innocent of child abuse requires a strong defense. It’s not always a black and white decision on what is discipline and what is child abuse. The right attorney can mean the difference as to whether you are acquitted or whether you lose custody of your child and possibly go to prison.

One factor that can be considered in determining whether an action was discipline or abuse is your state of mind. Were you angry and frustrated? It’s natural to have some feelings of anger when your child misbehaves, but it’s when you are looking to express your own anger that the lines become blurred.

Taking some time to cool off before you discipline your children can help establish a clearer line between discipline and abuse. When you are calm and collected, you also communicate the reason for punishment in a better manner. This can make it more effective as well as possibly save you from a criminal charge.  Being calm makes it more likely thatyou will avoid taking punishment too far. 

Was there an Intent to Abuse?

Proving that there was an intention to do harm makes a guilty conviction for child abuse more likely. The prosecution will be looking to show that you intended to harm your child, whether or not you actually did. Perhaps you threw a piece of furniture at your child. The state prosecutor will hone in on that aspect. Their argument will be that you had to know that when you threw a piece of furniture, it could physically harm your child.

In many cases, discipline stops before it reaches the level of abuse. When you are disciplining your child, you want to teach them not to act in the same way or behave in the same manner again. When you take your actions too far and put your child’s safety at risk, it may lead to a charge for abuse.

Felony Child Abuse Charges in Florida

When you are accused of child abuse in Florida, it’s usually a third degree felony. There is also a first degree felony which is for aggravated child abuse. Third degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison and a possible $5,000 fine. First degree felonies are punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $10,000. This is why working with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney is so important.

Contact a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you need assistance with an alleged child abuse charge in, or around, the Tampa area, let our skilled team of Tampa criminal defense attorneys help. Contact Faulkner Law Group, PLLC today to schedule an initial free consultation.



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