The South Florida woman told police she was in the bathroom for just a few minutes. In that short time frame, her 3-year-old son slipped out the back door – eventually causing her to be slapped with child neglect charges.
Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorneys know it’s a scenario that could happen to any one of us. This is one of those crimes that does not require intent. So it doesn’t matter whether you intended to place the child in harm’s way. If the court determines your actions – or lack of action – led to a child being placed at risk of harm, you could be facing felony charges.
What will be considered is whether the child did in fact suffer great harm. If not, it is possible your attorney may be able to have the charges dropped or negotiated down to a lesser offense.
In these cases, it is critical to hire an experienced defense attorney because a conviction is about more than jail time or hefty fines you might face. You risk significant problems with your employer, as well as the likely interference with regard to your custody or visitation of your children.
In this situation, an elderly neighbor called police after he had encountered the child that morning. He saw the child running through a front yard and then racing into the backyard. A couple of minutes passed, and the neighbor reportedly heard the boy screaming for help. He ran outside and found the boy stuck in a wooden fence that borders a lake.
The neighbor reportedly got the child lose. He recognized the boy because apparently, a few months ago, he found the same child wandering naked around the neighborhood by himself. In that instance, the neighbor returned the boy to his mother – though he did also contact police.
Authorities in that instance did not file charges, but they did make a report.
Upon returning to her home for this instance, the child’s mother insisted she had simply gone to the bathroom and the child had slipped out and ran down the block. She was furious with the neighbor for calling the police instead of returning the boy back home.
The boy, being 3-years-old, could not give a reason for why he had decided to leave the house.
Deputies arrested her on a charge of child neglect, leaving the child in the care of his father. The woman, who has no prior criminal record, posted a $3,000 bond later that day.
Florida law allows for varying degrees of punishment for child neglect, depending on the circumstances. Florida Statute 827.03 addresses both child abuse and child neglect. The latter is defined as a caregiver’s omission or failure to provide a child with the level of care that is necessary to maintain physical and mental health. This includes, but it not limited to, supplying food, shelter, clothing, medicine, medical services and supervision. You could also be charged with this crime if you fail to take reasonable efforts to protect a child from such treatment or exploitation from another person.
This one charge can be filed either as a result of one single incident, or as the result of a series of incidents.
If, as a result of this neglect, the child suffers some bodily harm, you may be charged with a second-degree felony. (Parents of children who have suffered accidental drownings are sometimes charged with this.) This is punishable by up to 15 years.
However, if the child did not suffer any bodily harm or injury, the charge is dropped to a third-degree felony, which is still punishable by up to five years in prison.