Today, I posted an article on the Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyers website titled Woman Arrested for Child Neglect in St Johns County Florida. This article discussed an arrest that occurred in St. Johns County. The woman was arrested after her son almost drowned in a pond in an apartment complex. A neighbor rescued the boy. The woman was arrested under Section 827.03 of the Florida Statutes.
What exactly is child neglect? The Florida First District Court of Appeals has stated:
“Section 827.03(3) defines ‘neglect of a child’ to include a ‘caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health….’ ‘Neglect may be based upon repeated conduct or on a single isolated incident or omission ….’ § 827.03(3)(a), Fla. Stat. (2010). Child neglect is criminalized when a person ‘willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child.’ § 827.03(3)(b), Fla. Stat. (2010). The term ‘culpable negligence’ is not defined in the statute, but the standard jury instruction, which was given in the instant case, defines it to include negligence that is ‘gross or flagrant,’ a course of conduct showing ‘reckless disregard of human life,’ an ‘entire want of care as to raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences,’ or such ‘wantonness or recklessness’ as to equal the intentional violation of the rights of others. See Fla. Std. Jury Instr. (Crim.) 7.7.” Ibeagwa v. State, 141 So. 3d 246, 247 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014
The Florida First District Court of Appeals explained culpable negligence and the evidence that is required to sustain a conviction for child neglect in Florida. The Florida appeals court stated:
“Culpable negligence must be determined upon the facts and the totality of the circumstances in each particular case. Behn v. State, 621 So.2d 534, 537 (Fla. 1st DCA 1993). If the evidence is sufficient to establish a jury question regarding whether a defendant is culpably negligent, then affirmance is required. See Ramos, 89 So.3d at 1121. Here, the facts taken in the light most favorable to the State showed that the appellant drove away from her home, leaving her two young children home alone without confidence that they would be supervised. She remained away from home for a period of hours, despite knowing that the children were unsupervised for a large portion of that time. In addition, the neighbor’s testimony suggested that the appellant was or should have been aware that the children had access to a ladder in the backyard. Had the evidence only shown that the appellant left her children unsupervised for a period of minutes, culpable negligence may not have been established. However, leaving two young children home alone for a period of hours and failing to return after she knew that the children had been unsupervised constituted sufficient evidence to make a prima facie case of child neglect by culpable negligence. This constituted sufficient evidence to send the issue to the jury, whose duty it was to resolve any conflicts in the evidence and credibility of the witnesses. As such, the trial court properly denied the motion for judgment of acquittal. “ Ibeagwa v. State, 141 So. 3d 246, 247-48 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014)
While the Florida First District Court of Appeals found that there was evidence to prove that the defendant neglected the child, there are other cases with different facts where courts have held that there was not enough evidence to hold a defendant criminally liable for child neglect. In Bernard v. State, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals had a different case with different facts. This court found the following:
“Even if a defendant’s conduct falls within this definition, it becomes criminal only when the state proves that the caregiver has acted ‘willfully or by culpable negligence.’ § 827.03(3)(b), Fla. Stat. (1997). While defendant left her oldest child unattended at home, she did so because otherwise the girl would have had to walk with her to pick up her baby. During this time she telephoned to check on the child. The child was unharmed and in good spirits, and their apartment was clean with the exception of the kitchen. The delay in defendant’s arrival at the police station may also have resulted from her lack of transportation. Under these circumstances, the defendant’s conduct was insufficient to rise to the level of criminal child neglect.” See Arnold v. State, 755 So.2d 796 (Fla. 2d DCA 2000). Bernard v. State, 769 So. 2d 1066, 1068 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000)
As with any criminal case, applying the law to the facts and evidence is the key. Research is necessary to build a defense to criminal charges. If you have been arrested, your defense will be based on the law and the facts. This is something that you must discuss with your Jacksonville criminal lawyer. There are police reports, witness statements, physical evidence and so many more factors that come into play when defending a criminal case.