Explosive Pumpkin, 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

The facts here could probably be used to support an investigation into a few different criminal actions. In fact, the sheriff’s office is still ,investigating the incident. I realize that this is a simple mistake, an unfortunate accident. It should not be something that results in the grandmother being in trouble with the law, but the fact is that she could be.

Under Chapter 790 it is unlawful to create or possess a destructive device or explosives.  Typically destructive devices are things like bombs, grenades, or something that throws a projective.  I think it’s a stretch to classify the pumpkin as a destructive device.  However, it sounds like it could easily be an “explosive”.  An explosive, in part, is “any chemical compound or mixture that has the property of yielding readily to combustion or oxidation upon application of heat, flame, or shock [. . . ]”.

The grandmother, who stated that all of the publicity is over something that the sheriff’s office blew way out of proportion, could also have an issue with child neglect under Chapter 827.  Neglect refers to 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 [. . .]”.  Obviously, a burned child has not had her physical health maintained as we have here.  I can imagine that there could potentially be a long lasting mental impact, as well.  It would be a shame for this child to develop a fear of jack-o-lanterns.  Another potential problem under Chapter 827 is contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but this would be even more of a stretch for law enforcement.

DCF Implications

When emergency responders are called out to an incident that involves children, DCF or the Florida Department of Children and Families will often end up involved.  The State of Florida’s policy is to do all it can to protect children.  An incident like the exploding pumpkin in this case can lead to DCF poking around in the family’s business.  In my experience, it is unlikely that an event like this one would lead to a child being removed from a home, but I’m almost certain that the family will be hearing from DCF if they have not already.

If you or a family member ever encounter a seemingly incident event that brings the government into your life, you should speak with an attorney immediately.  A florida attorney can help you navigate through what steps potentially should be taken and help minimize any real negative consequences.  Call the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC today.  We can help.

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