Often, when people think of “child neglect,” they think of someone who has either left a young child alone or who willfully fails to feed, shelter or clothe them. However, it can also mean a failure to properly supervise that child or, as noted in F.S. 827.03, it can mean not providing services necessary to maintain a child’s physical and mental health. This kind of broad interpretation is meant to give authorities leverage to ensure children are safe.
The state has a valid and vested interest in this, of course. However, the charge is often filed in many drug cases to be used as leverage against defendants. The accused individuals may be offered deals to plead guilty to certain drug offenses, in exchange for prosecutors dropping the child neglect charge, which may complicate matters of child custody and haunt them into the future. Prosecutors know a conviction for child neglect carries a heavy social stigma, and is much more difficult to explain away to a potential employer than a drug possession charge.
If you are charged with child neglect in Florida, you could be facing up to five years in prison – and that is assuming the neglect doesn’t result in any great bodily harm. It’s a third-degree felony. It is imperative that you contact an experienced defense lawyer to help you navigate through this type of case, not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your family.
Recently in Palm Beach County, a couple was arrested for child neglect and possession of marijuana and cocaine – and it all started with a window tinting violation. The deputy reportedly stopped the couple in their sport utility vehicle, and soon discovered the 34-year-old driver did not have a valid driver’s license. The deputy noted a woman was in the back seat, and asked her to step out of the vehicle. The 25-year-old reportedly “reeked” of marijuana, so the deputy conducted a search of the vehicle. The pair insisted to the deputy that they only smoke, and do not deal the drug.
The deputy saw that the toddler in the back seat, age 2, was sitting near a bag of marijuana, as well as scattered pieces of crack cocaine. There was also a razor blade within arm’s length of the child, according to The Palm Beach Post. The blade, likely used to cut crack cocaine, was contained in the center cup holder near the child.
The pair were arrested and child services were were called. Although both later posted bond, they were ordered to have no contact with the child and also not to use any alcohol or illegal drugs as a condition of their bond.
Depending on the circumstances, there may be a number of defenses that could be asserted in child neglect cases. It could be argued that:
- Defendant’s actions were not willful or sufficiently negligent or flagrant;
- Defendant was not a caregiver with responsibility for child’s welfare;
- Defendant used reasonable effort to protect the child from abuse or neglect;
- The incident was the result of an accident or misunderstanding;
- Defendant reasonably believed someone else was watching the child;
- The harm suffered was not reasonably foreseeable.
If you are arrested on child neglect charges in Palm Beach or Broward Counties, we can help.
Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
PBSO: Child unrestrained in back of car with drugs nearby, Nov. 23, 2016, By Olivia Hitchcock, Palm Beach Post
More Blog Entries:
Dozens Arrested in Miami for Trafficking Drugs, Guns, Dec. 10, 2016, West Palm Beach Defense Attorney Blog