Florida’s New Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse Law: “Penn State Law”
In response to the events at Penn State University the Florida Legislature passed the “Protection of Vulnerable Persons Law”. This new law currently in effect in the State of Florida requires any person who has knowledge of or suspects that any child is being abandoned, neglected or abused (physically, mentally, or sexually) to report that abuse to the “Abuse Hotline” or call 9-11. A person who knows of the child abuse or suspects that a child is being abused and does not report it may be charged with a Third Degree Felony which is punishable by up to five years in the Florida State Prison and a $5,000 fine. This law also imposes a $1 million dollar fine on any college insitution that knows of abuse and fails to report it.
Because of these new mandatory reporting laws any person could call law enforcement and report suspected abuse. As a result of these laws the “Abuse Hotline” has seen a 25% in crease in reports of abuse which resulted in them hiring 47 additional abuse counselors. This new law is concerning because of the greater potential that now exists for false reports. Now people will be more inclined to report abuse that may not be happening due to fear that they may be charged and prosecuted for failure to report abuse in violation of Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes. A person who makes a false report of abuse commitss a third degree Felony and may face a sentence of up to 5years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Once a claim is made against a person under this new law the case will either be investigated by DCF or by the appropriate law enforcement agency. These investigation often times are very intrusive into the lives of those accused and include an interview with the child, the accused, neighbors, friends, family, and teachers. If the agency determines that abuse has occurred Child Protective Services may petition the Court for a Shelter and have your child taken away from you, and will forward your case to the State Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution.
If you have been accused of child abuse or been accused of not reporting suspected child abuse it is important that you contact an attorney immediately. The attorney’s at Taracks & Associates are skilled and experienced in defending people accused of child related offenses in Court and against a DCF allegation