Accident or Child Neglect in Child’s Hot Car Death?

leifertlaw July 24, 2015 Child Neglect

Florida Juvenile Lawyer

Our Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert know that terrible things happen in life and, sometimes, nobody is legal to blame.

For example, earlier this month, a baby in Lauderhill died after being left in a hot car by the mother. Despite the death, a Lieutenant with the Lauderhill Police Department told the Palm Beach Post two weeks ago it’s likely that this incident was just a terrible accident, not a criminal act.

It’s often hard to tell where exactly one draws the line between (not unlawful) forgetfulness and accidental oversights on the one hand and criminal acts of negligence and/or abuse on the other; this matter which took place in Broward County highlights the difficulties quite well.

Who hasn’t forgotten something in the car one time or another? A set of keys, perhaps, or maybe a cell phone, a dog, or even a child. Obviously, living things are less easily forgotten, and they, of course, should be paid attention to with more care and consideration than other inanimate objects. That said, people can be forgetful, and some much more so than others. As our Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert know, it appears that what took place here was an example of innocent forgetfulness even though the end result was a heartbreaking tragedy.

That is an important lesson when it comes to criminal defense law (and much else in life): the effect is not always an indication of intent. It is often very difficult, if not outright impossible, to definitely determine the reasoning behind an action simply given the outcome or end result. While many media personalities across the country have (understandably) vocalized their outrage at parents who have left children sitting in unreasonably hot cars for too long, the fact is that just because a parent happens to do the otherwise unspeakable – and leave a child sitting in an unfathomably hot car for too long – doesn’t mean they were acting in a criminal manner.

That said, when a child dies in a hot car death, the likes of which have become far too common, law enforcement officers must consider the possibility of child neglect. Florida State Statute 827.03 states that child neglect entails “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 … or a caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.” Clearly, leaving a child in a hot car and letting them sit there until they die could be an example of depriving said child of the care necessary to maintain the child’s health. (If someone willfully or with culpable negligence neglects a child, as described above, they face punishment of up to $10,000 in fines and/or 15 years in prison; this doesn’t include punishments associated with more serious charges, such as murder, which prosecutors could apply to cases such as this one).

But in this matter which took place in Broward County, officers believe the family of the 11-month-old child who died in the excruciatingly hot car was simply unloading grocery bags from the car and forgot that they had left the young child in the car until an hour later — and until it was too late. By the time police arrived after receiving a call about the unresponsive baby, too much time had passed. As our Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers know, the child was pronounced dead at Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah.

While police believe this horrible incident was just a terrible mistake, and not a criminal act, and while he stated that the family has been “extremely cooperative,” Lt. Gregory Solowsky of the Lauderhill Police Department did remark that this was an accident which could have been avoided. As he pointed out, temperatures can soar in South Florida and temperatures inside cars can and often do rise exponentially, “very, very quickly.”

Dozens of children die each year from heatstroke after being left in hot cars, inside which temperatures skyrocket far more quickly than they do outside. Without fresh air, and while sitting in grueling heat, it is only a matter of time before a young child’s body is unable to deal with the severe and dangerous discomfort. Our Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers urge you to please be careful when traveling with a child in the car, and remember that being careful also means making sure the child is out of the car when the car is turned off.

If you have any questions about this or any other criminal defense issue, or if you’ve been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward and/or Miami-Dade County, please contact our criminal defense lawyers at Leifert & Leifert by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363) to schedule a free consultation. We look forward to assisting you.

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