News website www.local10.com reported on the following story out of Plantation, Florida:
A Plantation woman was arrested Tuesday after two children, ages 2 years and 9 months, were found alone in a running, unlocked car, according to the Broward Sheriff's Office.
Police said that two BSO Child Protective Services investigators spotted the children in the vehicle, which was parked in a lot in front of the BSO CPS office.
Plantation police arrested the suspect. She is a 21-year old woman who lives in Lauderdale Lakes. She was caring for the children. Police did not confirm the relationship between the three.
The children were put into the custody of Child Protective Services.
Child abuse is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Child abuse is proven when the State of Florida establishes the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
1) Defendant intentionally inflicted physical or mental injury upon the alleged victim;
2) Defendant committed an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to the alleged victim; or
3) Defendant actively encouraged another person to commit an act that resulted in or could reasonably have been expected to result in physical or mental injury to (victim).
I imagine that if the Broward State Attorney's Office chooses to file formal charges in this case, they will rely on the second prong - "Defendant committed an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to the alleged victim."
I do not believe that leaving young children inside of a car is a wise thing to do, but I do not believe that it rises to the level of criminal activity.
If I were the criminal defense attorney on this case, I would contact the Broward State Attorney's Office right away in an effort to persuade them not to file formal charges.
The State should look to see whether the children were restrained in car seats (and would not be able to climb into the driver's seat and operate the car), whether the car doors were locked (to keep strangers out and the children in), whether the car had child safety locks (to keep the children from getting out), the amount of time the accused was away from the car, and the temperature outside at the time the children were found inside of the car.
All of those factors should tell whether this was a poor decision on part of the accused, or an actual criminal act. If the children were in no real danger, then any harm done to the children would be speculative. And as I love to tell juries...you can't guess somebody guilty!
This is a weak case and should be dropped immediately. Child abuse charges can have serious consequences.
If you or somebody you know is facing child abuse charges, call me today.