Articles Posted in Child Abuse / Child Neglect

A grandmother in Saint Augustine, Florida worked with her granddaughter to create green flames in their jack-o-lantern for Halloween, according to Jacksonville.com. The pumpkin ended up being an explosive, rather than the awesome Halloween prop they probably intended.  Sixty-two (62) year old Wanda Michelle Reyna and her seven (7) year old granddaughter had apparently been inspired by a Youtube video, which gave instructions on how to create the green flames. The green flames would have been a very cool effect if it were not for the minor accident that took place.

161102_halloween-pumpkin-carving-face-large (1)The Youtube video gave a recipe to combine household chemicals as a way to create the green fire. In a 911 called the grandmother placed as the seven year old screamed in the background, the grandmother frantically explained that the chemicals got on the child. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the chemicals were burning at the time.  The  little girl was thrown in the pool to put out the reportedly minor flames.  She had to be taken to the hospital to be treated for her burns.  As a Florida criminal defense attorney and Florida family law attorney, a few scary possibilities come to mind. Being prepared for the possibilities of what may come is important for a Florida attorney.

Criminal Law Implications

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Take a look at the picture above. Is there anything that troubles you about this picture? I’m bothered by the distance between the adult and the two small children that are walking several feet behind the man. Even more troubling is the time and place that this occurs. This picture was taken about 8:20 a.m. near the intersection of Philips Highway and University Boulevard on a Monday morning as I drove to my office. By the time the man made it to the intersection, he did finally stop and wait for the children. However, I wondered if he would have simply kept going if traffic had allowed him to continue.

As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I sometimes find it hard to look at the world surrounding me and not break out into a legal analysis of situations that I encounter from time-to-time. When it comes to situations that involve children, I suppose I wear my father hat and my Jacksonville criminal defense attorney hat at the same time. I immediately began to consider all the reasons why what I was seeing was an incredibly bad idea. I was actually proud that my feelings as a parent dominated my thoughts as a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer; my thoughts on how I could defend this man were second to my thoughts of “what in the [insert expletive of your choice here] were you thinking?”

Florida Statute 827.03 defines neglect as follows:

“Neglect of a child” means:
1. 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, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or 2. A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.
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As a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, brazen acts committed in front of authority figures are like nails on a chalk board. Perhaps the only things that could be worse for a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney are videos of the offense and confessions. Recently at Jacksonville’s Wolfson High School, 18 year old Chynna Cinnamon Thompson allegedly attacked another student and the Dean of Discipline, Joshua Kristol, when he tried to intervene. According to firstcoastnews.com, both acts took place in front of a school resource officer. Thompson was arrested for misdemeanor battery, as well as, battery on a school employee.

Battery occurs when someone intentionally touches or strikes another person against the person’s will or intentionally causes bodily harm to another person. Battery is typically a 1st degree misdemeanor, but under Florida law, when certain classes of people become victims of a battery, the offense is automatically reclassified as a felony. In the case of a school board employee, as we have here, the battery is reclassified a 3rd degree felony. Felony offenses, by definition, are offenses where a person can be imprisoned for more than one year. In these cases, hiring an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney to defend you or loved one is important.

Battery on a school board employee is punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison, while a simple misdemeanor battery can have a punishment up to one year in jail. This puts Thompson in jeopardy of spending up to six years behind bars. However, based on the limited information available to the public and the apparent lack of any serious injuries in this case, it is unlikely that Thompson will be sent to prison, but the boldness required to launch an attack in font of a school resource officer will most certainly be of great concern to the State Attorney’s Office and the presiding judge.
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Another NFL player has made headlines due to alleged physical violence. Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson, has been indicted in Texas for child abuse. Peterson allegedly spanked his four-year old son until the child bled. According to cnn.com, Peterson sent text messages to the boy’s mother saying that Peterson felt bad about what he’s done. Peterson went on to text, “Never do I go overboard! But all my kids will know, hey daddy has the biggie heart but don’t play no games when it comes to acting right.” However, photographs of the child’s alleged injuries demonstrate that Peterson may, in fact, have gone overboard. Most disturbing is that Peterson was previously accused of abusing another four-year old son of his, reports espn.go.com.

140917_an-angry-and-scared-little-girl-695191-m.jpgAs a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, I’ve defended clients charged with child abuse pursuant to Florida statute 827.03 in varying degrees. Child abuse in Florida, at a minimum, is a third degree felony that could land an accused in prison for up to five years, but can be charged as a first degree felony, which is punishable by up to thirty years.

Child abuse is committed when a person intentionally causes physical or emotional injuries to a child. Any intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in a physical or mental injury will be enough, even when there was no apparent desire to cause the resulting harm. The “should have known better” aspect gets many parents into trouble, especially since those that will be passing judgment will be doing so unaffected by the emotion that triggered the alleged excessive discipline.
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Jacksonville Criminal LawyerIn Florida, anyone accused of committing a felony is permitted to take depositions of the prosecution’s witnesses. On misdemeanor charges the judge has to decide if there is a good reason to allow depositions before they will go forward. The judge can even allow depositions of people not listed as witnesses if it is proven that they have something relevant to say about the charges or the defense.

Depositions are part of the discovery process, which is the process by which the parties in criminal cases gather facts about the case from each other. The deposition itself is like a question and answer session that is being recorded by a court reporter. The defense lawyer can ask pretty much any question that could get to information that would help the defense theory or help impeach the witness and this is a pretty big umbrella.

Depositions are very useful for many reasons; to get the witness’s story on the record so they can’t change it later, to find out more information about the witness, to find holes in the prosecutions case and to let everyone know you are serious about defending the case.

Jacksonville Criminal AttorneyThe Duval County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to suspend without pay Christopher Robert Bacca, an elementary school teacher who faces charges of child sex crimes.

Bacca was previously named Teacher of the Year for Windy Hill Elementary School and his fall from grace has been dramatic. He is currently in jail without bail after being arrested on July 24. Bacca is charged with three counts of sexual battery against a child under 12 and one count each of lewd and lascivious battery of a child under 16, lewd and lascivious molestation of a child under 12 and lewd and lascivious conduct of a child under 16.

In 2009, the state Department of Children and Families launched an investigation of Bacca’s relationship with a student at Long Branch Elementary. The search yielded no actionable information and there were never any charges of criminal wrongdoing with the child denying any abuse took place. DCF ended the investigation with a recommendation that Bacca be moved to a “less vulnerable student population” after deciding that some harm had been done to the child. Rather than take that advice, the school system decided to transfer Bacca to yet another elementary school, Windy Hill.

Jacksonville Criminal AttorneyFlorida State University criminologist Bill Bales knew Florida’s crime rate, like that of the nation, had been dropping for years but he had no idea just how much. Once he sat down to crunch the numbers he was shocked to discover how safe the state has become. Bales said, “I was astonished by the consistency of the decline and the magnitude of the decline.”

The decline was far from statistically insignificant. His results indicate that the level of safety of citizens and tourists in the state over the past 20 years has improved by a whopping 52%. What he labels a “remarkable” figure. His analysis indicated that crimes rates in Florida fell dramatically since the peak year of 1991 across all seven categories of crimes tracked by the FBI: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and auto theft.

What’s the reason for such a steep drop? Bales and other criminologist say there’s no one answer. A variety of factors such as state demographics, deployment of law enforcement resources, unemployment rates and poverty all likely played a part. The only significant correlation the study found was with increased imprisonment rates. He found that from 1980 to 2010, as crime rates went down, Florida’s prison population ballooned nearly 170 percent. However, he emphasizes that that alone does not explain the overall trend.

Jacksonville Criminal LawyerLast weekend was just like any other weekend for most Jacksonville residents and Floridians, alike. The aftermath of Beryl had gone and the sun was finally shinning. Most residents made every effort to go outside and enjoy our normal Florida sunshine. However, this was not the case for one 3-year-old child in Orlando.

Daniel Finnell, a 3 year old child, was left alone at his home while his mother went for a night on the town. Daniel was found walking barefoot in the middle of the street just minutes from coming to a busy intersection. Luckily found uninjured, the mother was later arrested for CHILD NEGLECT.

The mother, 24 year old Nicole Finnell was arrested and booked in Orange County Jail on a $1,000 bond. The child is currently with the mother’s father. The child’s grandfather has not intentions of bailing out his daughter due to the severity of the charges.

Jacksonville Criminal AttorneyCasey Anthony was charged with the murder of her 2 year old daughter, Caylee, and later acquitted of all charges. She was, however, convicted of four counts of lying to law enforcement officers during the investigation. She was given time served, but placed on probation for a year. Largely, since the acquittal she has fallen from the headlines and lived a life of seclusion. But, the silence and seclusion has been broken, last night she conducted a phone interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan.

During the interview, Casey stated she was innocent and was “rightly found not guilty.” Furthermore, she stated, “Obviously I didn’t kill by daughter.” These remarks come even though it was an entire month before she reported her child missing. In addition, her and the defense team did a great job instilling reasonable doubt in the jury with the multitude of alternative scenarios as to the cause of Caylee’s Death. This strategy ultimately led to the acquittal of the Murder charges.

During the interview Casey talks about the misguided media persona and that she is not a “party girl” and she is “ashamed in many ways of the person that I [Casey] was.” Her Attorney says she has changed and now leads a life of cooking, cleaning, reading books, exercising, and watching movies; although still in seclusion and afraid to go outside.

GavelRecently a Duval County Teacher was arrested on charges of Child Abuse. The alleged incident took place on April 2, 2012. According to the report, Kristopher Hunter, the teacher, kicked the student in the back and also slammed the boy against the wall. The boy had to seek medical treatment for the injuries he sustained during the incident. The student’s name has not been released due to his age. However, it was revealed that the incident occurred between a teacher and a student of Arlington Middle School.

The act of child abuse is defined under Florida Statute § 827.03. Under that Statute child abuse is defined as “intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child; an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child.” As a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer I have received numerous calls regarding child abuse. What some may not know is child abuse is considered a 3rd degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or $5,000 in fines.

Applying the law to the facts above, it could be established Mr. Hunter was guilty of Child abuse. Mr. Hunter committed an intentional act, kicking and slamming the child, which could reasonably be expected to result in injury, the child was taken to the hospital for medical treatment. Therefore, if the State can prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt” he could be convicted.

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