Last week, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) shut down Tiny Blessings. DCF closed the daycare, because the owner, Lawanda Jackson, had a Domestic Battery charge on her record. Jackson, through her attorney, claims that “she was given bad advice from her previous lawyer, leading her to think the plea would not affect her license, but it turns out it did.” (News4jax.com)
The problem began on October 6, 2010, when Jackson was arrested for domestic battery. The next day, a private lawyer represented her in first appearance court. Through her lawyer, Jackson entered a plea of no contest in first appearance court. The Judge withheld her conviction and sentenced her to probation. She was placed on probation for 12 months to complete the following special conditions: (1) pay a fine and court costs; (2) complete the SAFE families program, and (3) have no contact with the victim of the Jacksonville Domestic Battery. Her probation was subject to early termination. This meant that if she completed the special conditions of her domestic battery probation, she could be released from supervision early. She did finish her probation early, and her probation was terminated on April 25, 2011. Because the SAFE families program takes approximately six months to complete, it appears that she completed her probation as fast as she could.
Over one year later, her license to operate her daycare facility was revoked and her daycare was forced to close. Florida Law governs a person’s ability to operate or be employed by certain types of facilities, such as a childcare facility and Domestic Battery is a listed offense.
Jackson’s attorney stated that she was not aware of the ramifications when she entered her plea of no contest. He stated that her lawyer, at the time, did not inform her. It appears that Jackson did not have much time to discuss the case with legal counsel, since she pled no contest to the charge within 24 hours of her arrest.