Our South Florida criminal defense lawyers know that, according to Florida law, you can be arrested for and charged with child neglect without ever laying hands on the child in question.
A Lake Worth woman was recently arrested by law enforcement officers after they entered her home and found it in a completely destitute state. According to the Sun Sentinel, the woman’s house was full of mold, roaches and a sink overflowing with dirty dishes. Also in the house was her 7-year-old son, allegedly the victim of child neglect, for which the woman has been charged.
The woman has not been accused of abusing the child; rather, she has been charged with child neglect due to the fact that the young boy was allegedly living in squalor, a violation of Chapter 827 of the Florida State Statutes.
State law differentiates between child abuse and child neglect, and further differentiates between different forms of each. For example, had this child endured great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement due to the neglect of the woman, she would be facing a second-degree felony charge.
Given that the above-cited article does not indicate any bodily harm having been inflicted upon the boy due to the alleged negligence, our attorneys believe that she will face the third-degree felony charge of child neglect, used in instances in which the child has not sustained great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement. If convicted of the child neglect charge she faces, the woman faces penalties of up to 5 years in prison and/or $5,000 in fines.
In fighting the charges against her, our South Florida criminal lawyers know that she and her attorneys might try to demonstrate that the unsanitary conditions under which law enforcement officers discovered her and the 7-year-old were not indicative of the typical maintenance of the household. For example, the police could have entered on a day on which a pest management technician accidentally left a crease open in the wall, allowing roaches inside; or a group of people had come over for food and then left without cleaning their dishes. There are many explanations for why a house might be found in such a seemingly unsanitary condition. To automatically assume that the woman is guilty of child neglect is presumptuous.
The woman is not believed to have a history of child neglect. In fact, the police were at her house for an entirely unrelated reason; they entered her apartment after receiving a call from her landlord, who claimed to believe that the woman was stealing electricity. According to the Sun Sentinel, though, theft of electricity is not one of the charges the woman is facing, thus calling into question the motivation of the landlord in calling the police.
This woman, like ever other American, deserves a fair trial and adequate representation. If you have been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward or Miami-Dade County, please contact us for a free consultation by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363). We look forward to assisting you.