Child Abuse: Simple Negligence vs. Culpable Negligence

In the age of the coronavirus crisis, many families are stretched thin. Working parents who rely on school to provide daily childcare may no longer have access to assistance, and many children may be spending more time at home while their parents still have to work or leave the home. Despite the limited resources available to working moms and dual income families for child care, law enforcement continues to make arrests for Child Neglect based on allegations of a lack of adequate supervision.

If the Department of Children and Families, DCF, or the police have accused you of child abuse or negligence in caring for your child, it is imperative that you contact an experienced defense attorney in St. Petersburg. The attorney will explain your rights and help you on the path to reunification with your children. Further, understanding the difference between simple and culpable negligence is the first step in protecting yourself against accusations of abuse.

What Constitutes Child Abuse?

Child abuse and child neglect is defined by state law. In Florida, child abuse is defined in Chapter 827 of Florida State statutes. The offense of child neglect is defined under Section 827.03, Florida Statutes. Under Florida law, “neglect of child” means “[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,” including, but not limited to:

  • Food and nutrition;
  • Clothing;
  • Shelter;
  • Supervision;
  • Medicine and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child.

What is Simple Negligence?

Simple negligence in the context of a charge of Child Neglect is generally the failure to act or acting in a manner that is consistent with the reasonable standard or duty of care owed to a child in one’s charge.

Think of simple negligence as what might occur if a mother takes a phone call and leaves a hot stove unattended. Her child then suffers a burn from the stove burner due to the momentary lapse in supervision. This singular and relatively brief lack of supervision was negligent, but it was not grossly negligent or culpable negligence. As a result, it would not constitute the crime of Child Neglect under Florida law. This is an important distinction: only cases involving culpable or gross negligence rise to the level of the criminal act of Child Neglect. While simple negligence in the care of a child may give cause for State to be involved in order to insure the child’s welfare, the case should not enter the criminal justice system unless the conduct was culpably negligent.

What is Culpable Negligence?

Unlike simple negligence, culpable negligence involves a much higher degree of fault or dereliction of responsibility. 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.”

In other words, culpable negligence involves consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause injury, serious injury, or even death. An example of this would be a parent who fails to give their child medical care, even though the child is clearly in need of assistance, resulting in harm being suffered by the child. You should know that the lack of an injury is not necessarily a defense to the charge of Child Neglect. Instead, the issue for the court will be whether the act or failure to act placed the child at risk of serious harm.

What Should You Do if Accused of Child Neglect?

If you have been charged with child neglect, it is vital that you contact a criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg immediately. Failing to properly address a charge of this nature exposes you to face fines, probation, possible jail or prison time, and may greatly impact your ability to have continued custody of your children. Contact the legal team at Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan to speak with an experienced attorney today.

For a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney St. Petersburg, please contact Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.