Press Release

State of Florida
Department of Children and Families
Rick Scott

David E. Wilkins

October 10, 2011
CONTACT: John Harrell
(904) 723-5470 / (904) 233-7792

Local Man Who Falsely Reported Child Abuse Gets 45-Day Jail Sentence, Has To Pay Several Fines
~ False Child Abuse Reporting Is Third Degree Felony, Could Lead To Five Years In Prison ~

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. – The Florida Department of Children and Families announced today that a Jacksonville man has been given a 45-day jail sentence after being charged with making a false report of child abuse. Additionally, Timmy Riley will have to pay several fines for his false reporting, and has been advised not to make any false reports to DCF, 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.";

"No one should have to be subjected to having a false report filed about them. I am proud of the work of our Sex Crimes and Family Violence detectives, but sadly, they have enough legitimate cases to investigate," said Lt. Steve Gallaher of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. "We are pleased that the judge saw fit to apply this penalty for the Violation of Injunction charge that stemmed from Timmy Riley filing a false report of child abuse. It sends a powerful message, especially during this Domestic Violence Awareness Month, that orders of protection and injunctions are important and will be enforced. We would remind the public that a false report of child abuse is a third degree felony, punishable by five years in prison."

Florida Statutes Section 39.01 (27) defines "False Report" as a report of abuse, neglect, or abandonment of a child to the central abuse hotline, which report is maliciously made for the purpose of: a) harassing, embarrassing, or harming another person; b) personal financial gain for the reporting person; c) acquiring custody of a child; or d) 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 $10,000.00 for each report determined to be false.

Although false reports of child abuse are disturbing, they are rare in the Jacksonville area. In Duval, Nassau and Clay counties, less than one-tenth of one 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," said Mallon. "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).