February 11, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense
Under Florida law, you cannot cause a child to be in need of services or encourage them to violate a legal ordinance. This offense is codified under Florida Statute Section 827.4(1) entitled “Contributing to the Delinquency or Dependency of a Child.” It is a lesser-included offense of child neglect or abuse and is most often charged to an adult who has given a child drugs or alcohol. To read more about child abuse or neglect charges in Florida, visit our blog post here.
The statute provides that:
Any person who:
- Commits any act which causes, tends to cause, encourages, or contributes to a child becoming a delinquent or dependent child or a child in need of services; or
- Induces or endeavors to induce, by act, threat, command, or persuasion, a child to commit or perform any act, follow any course of conduct, or live in a manner that causes or tends to cause such child to become or to remain a dependent or delinquent child or a child in need of services,
Commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
The statute also states that:
It is not necessary for any court exercising juvenile jurisdiction to make an adjudication that any child is delinquent or dependent or a child in need of services in order to prosecute a violation of this section. An adjudication that a child is delinquent or dependent or a child in need of services shall not preclude a subsequent prosecution of a violation of this section.
Interestingly, the statute also covers the impregnation of a child under sixteen years of age and provides that:
A person 21 years of age or older who impregnates a child under 16 years of age commits an act of child abuse which constitutes a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. A person who impregnates a child in violation of this subsection commits an offense under this subsection regardless of whether the person is found to have committed, or has been charged with or prosecuted for, any other offense committed during the course of the same criminal transaction or episode, including, but not limited to, an offense proscribed under s. 800.04, relating to lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon any person under 16 years of age. Neither the victim’s lack of chastity nor the victim’s consent is a defense to the crime proscribed under this subsection.
What the State Must Prove
In order for the State to prove the crime of Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of one of the following:
- You knowingly did something that caused, could have caused, encouraged, could have encouraged, contributed, or could have contributed to the child becoming in need of services or delinquent; or
- You threatened, commanded, persuaded, acted, induced, or attempted to do the former so that the child would do something to make them a dependent, delinquent, or in need of services.
The Statute Broken Down
A Delinquent Act
Under Florida Statute Section 984.03(55), a delinquent act is “a violation of any law of this state, the United States, or any other state which is a misdemeanor or a felony or a violation of a county or municipal ordinance which would be punishable by incarceration if the violation were committed by an adult.”
In Need of Services
Under Florida Statute Section 984.03(9), a child in need of services refers to a child “for whom there is no pending investigation into an allegation or suspicion of abuse, neglect, or abandonment; no pending referral alleging the child is delinquent; or no current supervision by the Department of Juvenile Justice or the Department of Children and Families for an adjudication of dependency or delinquency. The child must also, pursuant to this chapter, be found by the court:
(a) To have persistently run away from the child’s parents or legal custodians despite reasonable efforts of the child, the parents or legal custodians, and appropriate agencies to remedy the conditions contributing to the behavior. Reasonable efforts shall include voluntary participation by the child’s parents or legal custodians and the child in family mediation, services, and treatment offered by the Department of Juvenile Justice or the Department of Children and Families;
(b) To be habitually truant from school, while subject to compulsory school attendance, despite reasonable efforts to remedy the situation pursuant to ss. 1003.26 and 1003.27 and through voluntary participation by the child’s parents or legal custodians and by the child in family mediation, services, and treatment offered by the Department of Juvenile Justice or the Department of Children and Families; or
(c) To have persistently disobeyed the reasonable and lawful demands of the child’s parents or legal custodians, and to be beyond their control despite efforts by the child’s parents or legal custodians and appropriate agencies to remedy the conditions contributing to the behavior. Reasonable efforts may include such things as good faith participation in family or individual counseling.”
A Dependent Child
Under Florida Statute Section 39.01(15), a dependent child is a child who is “found by the court:
(a) To have been abandoned, abused, or neglected by the child’s parent or parents or legal custodians;
(b) To have been surrendered to the department, the former Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, or a licensed child-placing agency for purpose of adoption;
(c) To have been voluntarily placed with a licensed child-caring agency, a licensed child-placing agency, an adult relative, the department, or the former Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, after which placement, under the requirements of this chapter, a case plan has expired and the parent or parents or legal custodians have failed to substantially comply with the requirements of the plan;
(d) To have been voluntarily placed with a licensed child-placing agency for the purposes of subsequent adoption, and a parent or parents have signed a consent pursuant to the Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure;
(e) To have no parent or legal custodians capable of providing supervision and care;
(f) To be at substantial risk of imminent abuse, abandonment, or neglect by the parent or parents or legal custodians; or
(g) To have been sexually exploited and to have no parent, legal custodian, or responsible adult relative currently known and capable of providing the necessary and appropriate supervision and care.”
Under Florida Law, contributing to the delinquency of a minor is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one (1) year in jail, twelve (12) months of probation, and fines, fees, court costs, restitution costs, community service, supervision, and other sanctions.
There are many defenses to the crime of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Some common defenses include:
- Lack of Knowledge
- Lack of Causation
- Fact-Based Defenses as to Defendant’s Actions/Conduct
- Legal Defenses as to Child’s Classification as Delinquent
Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Florida is a serious crime carrying severe penalties. If you or a loved one has been charged with this crime, contact an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience defending Floridians against all types of state criminal charges and will ensure every applicable defense is explored in your favor. Give us a call at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.
Written by Gabi D’Esposito