PORT RICHEY, FL (November 5, 2019)Patch.com writes that a 14-month old child fell from a second-floor balcony at his Port Richey home over the weekend. The police have now filed charges against the parents for neglect and obstruction. The mother and father both changed their stories to the police when the officers came to the apartment to question them.

The 24-year-old mother told police that she saw the baby fall, but that since the child appeared uninjured, she did not call 911. She later admitted that she did not see the child fall and said that she was cooking. The 24-year-old father initially claimed he was not home when the little boy fell, but then claimed he had been in the apartment, but failed to notice the child go onto the balcony because there were other children running around the apartment. He finally changed his story again, saying he came home and saw a hole in the screen door and the balcony door open, but did not see the child outside.

A witness heard the child fall and then heard crying. She said the 14-month old was covered in dirt and was limping. When she saw the apartment with the broken screen, she brought the baby up. The mother grabbed the little boy from her and shut the door. The woman was concerned that the child could have suffered internal injuries and called 911 to report the incident.

The child was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where he was evaluated to check for internal injuries.

Child Neglect Charges in Florida

Child neglect is a form of child abuse. Under Florida law, a caregiver commits neglect when they fail to provide the care, supervision, or services necessary for the child’s mental and physical health. A parent or caregiver who fails to provide reasonably necessary food, nutrition, clothing, medical treatment, and supervision could be convicted of neglect.

A caregiver may also be guilty of neglect for failing to protect or prevent a child from being abused by another person. Neglect is a felony in Florida. A person convicted of neglect that does not cause severe bodily harm to the child can face a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the neglect causes great bodily harm, then the crime becomes a second-degree felony punishable with a maximum of fifteen years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

There are numerous defenses to child neglect charges. In many cases, people may disagree about whether the conduct was actually neglectful because the concept is somewhat subjective. A defendant may claim they were not the responsible caregiver, that the conduct was negligent, but not neglectful, that an accident, misunderstanding, or factual error is involved, or that the defendant reasonably believed someone else was watching and caring for the child.

The consequences of being convicted of neglect are severe and can cause a person to lose custody of their children in addition to facing jail time and fines. It is vital for those suspected of child neglect to hire an experienced attorney.