What Is The Flow Of Events After A Child Abuse Allegation Is Made?
Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.
There are a lot of factors that determine the flow of events after a child abuse allegation has been made. You have to start with an understanding that child abuse and child sexual abuse investigations are different. Quite often, they are handled through a separate branch office of the state attorney, rather than the main state attorney’s office. They have a series of special prosecutors as well as sex crimes investigators with special training. You have to start with the understanding that these prosecutors and other team members have more work than they can possibly do. I don’t know about you or anyone else, but every time I have taken a look at someone’s watch, it shows that there are 24 hours in a day. Considering our current level of technology, there is simply no way to create a 25th hour so that more work can get done.
As a result, the entire prosecutorial and law enforcement team is going to prioritize in triage. For example, an allegation that indicates that the child abuse was caused by someone who is not within the child’s household would have a different level of prioritization (all other things being equal) than an allegation that indicates that the alleged suspect is residing in the same home as the alleged victim. These allegations would have different levels of priority because they are thinking in terms of how to protect the child and which allegation to address before the other. This is critical to understanding how their office works.
So, the flow of events is going to be dictated, first of all, by the level of prioritization given based upon the type of allegations and any future risks to the child. If they think there is going to be future risk to the child, they are going to move a lot quicker. Generally, the flow of events begins when a criminal complaint is made, and it is followed by an investigation carried out by an officer. Depending on the law enforcement agency involved, the officer may hand the case off to someone who is a special investigator of child abuse or sexual abuse cases. The special investigator will take over the investigation, look at the level of prioritization and fit it into their workflow accordingly. They will do several different things.
If the child is old enough, there will often be what’s known as a CTT interview. That’s a legalese for the child protection team videotaped interview that’s done in a special room at a special office. Multiple videos and audios recording devices are used. The person who is trained with interviewing children will ask a series of questions while being recorded, and then there will be a staffing. If at any point the law enforcement officer believes probable cause exists, then they will request a warrant, which will go through the chain of command and safeguards within the law enforcement agency. From there, it will go to a special prosecutor at the state attorney’s office. The special prosecutor will probably have had staffing with the law enforcement officer previously, but they will still review the probable cause request to see that it meets legal criteria. If it does, they will initial it.
From there, it will be forwarded to the duty judge. In most counties, there is going to be more than one circuit and county court judge, but this is not exclusive. There are some small counties in North Florida that have one circuit judge and one county judge, and there are others that have several county judges and several circuit judges. The judges will each have a duty rotation where they handle daily tasks, like first appearances. Throughout most of Florida, someone who is arrested will be seen within 24 hours. That means that if there are 16 judges in a particular county, they will be assigned on rotation for the first appearance. They will also be assigned on rotation as the duty judge for review of warrants. If the judge believes probable cause exists, they will sign the warrant and it will become active immediately. Once it’s active, the person will be arrested or they will turn themselves in voluntarily. We always like to negotiate voluntary turn-in, because there is less drama, usually lower bonds and a lot less stress for our clients. We do what we can to make it as minimally painful as possible.
Depending on the county, the case will then go to a criminal intake division, a divisional prosecutor, or a special prosecutor. If a special prosecutor worked on the case originally, then quite often the charging document will go directly to that particular prosecutor. If not, it may go to another special prosecutor, an intake division or a divisional prosecutor. In theory, we have 67 counties that are all bound by one set of statutes, one set of rules of criminal procedure and outside of conflicts in district courts of appeal one set of case law. As a practical matter, you will find that different counties within the same circuit run by the same elected state attorney have slightly different procedures for how they handle the warrant approval process.
That’s a basic primer of what happens when the investigation has concluded and they decide that they are going to charge the individual. I have a video on my website that describes the legal process itself after the arrest. It’s less than 40 seconds and can be found at www.cobblawfirm.com.
For more information on Flow Of Events After Child Abuse Allegation, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (850) 423-0035 today.
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