Child neglect is a serious offense that the state of Florida takes very seriously. For that reason, individuals who are accused of this crime can end up having their children taken away from them and can become subject to stiff penalties upon conviction. One recent article in The Palm Beach Post described a case in which a 31-year-old West Palm Beach woman was arrested on three counts of alleged child neglect. The judge set her bail at $15,000.
According to the news story, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and police officers went to the woman’s apartment after receiving reports that she had left her three children alone at home for days with no supervision and no food. After being unable to find the children, the officers contacted the detective bureau. The detectives ended up learning that the renter of the apartment had been subletting the unit to her former sister-in-law. The children’s mother finally arrived at the apartment complex with her kids and stated that they had stayed with her father in Miami for the weekend.
After that, multiple other findings led to the woman’s arrest. It turned out that statements made by family members of the woman showed inconsistent accounts of the children’s whereabouts that weekend. Officers found that the apartment was stocked with very little food. Furthermore, the children themselves told officers that they were left at home by themselves on a regular basis, with the 9-year-old child (the oldest) stating that she would regularly cook or prepare dinner for her younger siblings, who are ages 7 and 8. The children also said that their mother would oftentimes return after they were already asleep. They ended up being placed in the custody of DCF.
According to the 2012 Florida Statutes §827.03, neglect of a child (commonly called “child neglect”) occurs when a parent or caregiver fails to provide his or her child with the care, services and supervision that are needed for the child’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. For example, neglect can occur through a parent failing to provide the child with the necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care and other provisions that a “prudent” person would provide in the same situation. Florida law states that child neglect can be based on repeated conduct or on a single incident.
Neglect of a child is a third-degree felony in the state of Florida, with each count being punishable by up to five years in state prison, upon conviction. This only applies when the neglect does not result in great bodily harm, permanent disfigurement or permanent disability of the child. If, however, the child is physically harmed in any of these ways from the neglect, the offense becomes a second-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison for each count.
While child neglect is an important issue that needs to be addressed, it is important to remember that not every person who is accused of this crime is actually guilty. If someone is wrongfully accused of child neglect, that individual could end up suffering from undeserved prison time and the unmerited loss of his or her children. If you are trying to challenge unfair child neglect charges, do not hesitate to consult with West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Ron Herman at Herman Law, P.A. Contact our firm today!