Parents and other caregivers in the Fort Lauderdale area may think it would be impossible for them to get accused of a serious crime involving child abuse or neglect.
After all, the typical South Florida resident would never think of hurting or neglecting a child.
But the reality is that people can, for any number of reasons, wind up facing felony or even homicide charges because of an honest but tragic mistake.
For example, in another part of Florida, prosecutors recently filed aggravated manslaughter charges against a babysitter.
The babysitter had picked the child up from the child’s mother and taken the child to another home where the babysitter was going to watch several other children.
By all accounts, it seems the babysitter forgot the child in her car, and it was hot outside. By the time she remembered a couple of hours later, the baby had suffered fatal injuries from the heat.
Aggravated manslaughter of a child is a first-degree felony in Florida. In addition to fines, the maximum punishment is 30 years in prison.
Although the babysitter has no criminal history and seems to have made a horrible error, authorities do not have to prove that she intentionally hurt the child. They need only prove what is called “culpable negligence.”
A caregiver who is accused of criminal child abuse should know their rights
Authorities take crimes involving children seriously. They are often under pressure to prosecute these charges aggressively in part because of the emotions involved in cases like these.
Even if a person has a stellar record for being good with children and a good citizen, they still may wind up in prison for years if they hurt a child, even if they did not mean to. Their conviction will likely greatly limit their professional and personal opportunities. They may never be able to work with children again.
Sometimes, the best thing a person can do is admit their mistakes and reach a reasonable compromise with the prosecutor.
However, in other cases, the authorities simply do not have the whole story. They may even take a person’s words or actions out of context to turn an accident into a child abuse case.
Anyone facing charges of this nature should make sure they know their options and the rights and strategies they have available to them.