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Legitimate child abuse should be stopped, but in many instances these days, parental discipline is misinterpreted, or the Department of Children and Family Services gets involved due to a nosy neighbor or a misinterpretation by a teacher. If an allegation has been made of events that give rise to a charge of aggravated child abuse, the police and the State Attorney’s Office will get involved. At Hanlon Law, Tampa criminal defenselawyer Will Hanlon understands how serious and embarrassing these charges can be. Our firm is committed to the rights of the accused, and we offer a knowledgeable, aggressive defense to our clients.


There are three different types of criminal child abuse in Florida — simple child abuse, aggravated child abuse, and child neglect. Each of these is treated and punished differently. Aggravated child abuse is the most serious charge because it involves the most serious injuries, and it is the charge that is potentially the hardest to defend. It is imperative to seek out legal counsel if you are accused of or charged with aggravated child abuse.

Under Florida Statute section 827.03, a prosecutor trying to show aggravated child abuse must prove beyond a reasonable doubt one of the following:

  • The defendant committed aggravated battery on a child;
  • The defendant willfully tortured, maliciously punished, or willfully and illegally caged a child; or
  • The defendant willfully or knowingly abused a child, resulting in great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, or permanent disability.

Child abuse under this statute is defined as intentionally causing a physical or mental injury to a child, committing an intentional action that reasonably could be expected to cause a child mental or physical harm, or actively encouraging someone to perpetrate an action that causes or could be expected to cause a child’s mental or physical injury.

In some cases, it is possible to defend against an aggravated child abuse criminal charge by negating one of the elements. For example, perhaps your state of mind does not meet the statutory definition of maliciousness. Maliciousness indicates that somebody acted intentionally, wrongfully, and without a legal justification or excuse. The prosecutor needs to show circumstances from which it can be concluded that a reasonable parent would not have acted in a damaging way toward the child for any valid reason, but instead their primary goal was to cause the child unjustifiable injuries or pain.

The law does not require that aggravated child abuse be perpetrated by a parent or guardian of the child victim. The primary difference between aggravated child abuse and felony battery is the child’s age. The prosecutor has discretion to charge it as aggravated child abuse, which is a more serious felony. If there is no basis for a downward departure, the minimum sentence that the court is allowed to impose is 48 months’ imprisonment, although the court can also sentence you to up to 30 years.

In some cases, it is possible to argue that a defendant who is a parent was reasonably disciplining a child under their authority or control. However, this is harder to argue if the resulting injuries are more than bruises. In these cases, we may be able to show insufficient evidence for the elements or take other approaches, such as trying to work out a plea for felony battery rather than aggravated child abuse.


If you are accused of aggravated child abuse, you should not delay in retaining a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to evaluate the facts and circumstances and present an aggressive defense. In addition to criminal penalties, there will likely be other consequences of a conviction, such as potentially not being able to see your child or children, losing a custody battle, or being forced to have only supervised visitation. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has provided a strong, aggressive defense to people accused of crimes such as aggravated battery since 1994. He strives to provide responsive and personalized representation. Call Hanlon Law at 813-228-7095 or use our online form to set up an appointment if you need a domestic violence lawyer or representation in facing other charges.