JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville man was sentenced to 45 days in jail after being charged with making a false report of child abuse.
Timmy Riley will also have to pay several fines for his false reporting and has been advised not to make any false reports to the Department of Children and Families in violation of a previously entered injunction.
Riley was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. According to Florida state law, "a person who knowingly and willfully makes a false report, or who advises another to make a false report, is guilty of a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to five years imprisonment."
"Child safety is the first priority of the Florida Department of Children and Families," said DCF Interim Regional Managing Director Pattie Mallon. "We investigate allegations of abuse and neglect involving children, and we take our investigations very seriously. If we receive a report of serious abuse or neglect, our investigators must see the children within two hours. Our goal is to see all child victims within 24 hours of the first report of abuse. Because our goal is to be highly responsive, any false reports of abuse could prevent us from seeing real abuse victims quickly and giving them the protection they need. We salute the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office for their swift action to arrest this person who falsely reported abuse."
A false report is defined as a report of abuse, neglect or abandonment of a child to the central abuse hotline in which the report is maliciously made for the purpose of harassing, embarrassing or harming another person; personal financial gain for the reporting person; acquiring custody of a child; or personal benefit for the reporting person in any other private dispute involving a child.
This does not include a report made in good faith to the central abuse hotline. Florida law allows for an administrative fine for up to $10,000 for each report determined to be false.
False reports of child abuse are rare in the Jacksonville area, according to DCF. In Duval, Nassau and Clay counties, less than 1/10 of 1 percent of all abuse reports received in a 12-month period were verified to be false reports.
"We would strongly urge the public to report legitimate concerns about child abuse or neglect to us so that we can investigate," Mallon said. "Children who are being abused or neglected need someone to speak up for them. We cannot protect them and prevent future abuse if we do not hear from the public."
The public can report suspected child abuse or neglect by calling the following number: 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).