CAPE CORAL, FL– writes that attorney John Musca from Musca Law is representing a mother accused of neglect in the death of her 18-month-old child last September. Musca informed reporters that the child had been struggling with illness for the past six months, making it difficult for him to eat. The mother said that the little boy began to recuperate, but then started teething, causing him to have new struggles with eating. Musca said the mother breastfed the toddler just hours prior to his tragic death.

Prosecutors charged both parents with felony manslaughter in the death of the toddler, and with neglect related to the couple’s two other children. While detectives claimed the children were malnourished, Musca stated that this accusation was false. Musca said the entire family is small in stature, but that the children are healthy.

Musca reports that the mother is a nurturing parent and a devout Christian. He stated that they would fight all of the charges filed against his client.

Both parents are currently being held on bond, which is set at $250,000 each. One of the investigating officers stated that the case is a tough one.

Child Neglect Charges

Child neglect in Florida is defined under Section 827.03. A caregiver who fails to provide necessities, including food, nutrition, shelter, clothing, supervision, or medical care to a child, will potentially face these charges. In some instances, a parent or other caregiver who fails to take reasonable steps to protect a child from being abused, exploited or neglected by another person will also be charged with neglect.

To convict an individual of child neglect, the prosecutor must first show that the defendant was a caregiver for the victim and that the victim was less than eighteen years old. The prosecutor then must prove that the defendant either willfully, or by “culpable negligence,” failed in providing supervision, care or necessary services for the child’s physical and mental well-being, or that the caregiver did not take reasonable steps to prevent the child from suffering abuse, exploitation or neglect at the hands of another person.

It is important to note that “culpable negligence” indicates a higher level of responsibility or fault than the legal standard for civil negligence claims. Culpable negligence is a term referencing situations where a person fails to provide care, which was gross and flagrant, and that it indicated an utter disregard for the victim’s safety.

Neglect charges may follow one event that was serious enough to have reasonably led to the death or severe bodily injury or a pattern of behavior that puts the victim at risk.

Sentencing and Consequences

Penalties for child neglect depend on whether or not the victim suffered severe harm. In cases where no severe injury resulted, the defendant will face charges for a third-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In the event the actions or inactions lead to serious harm, the crime is upgraded to a second-degree felony with a possible sentence up to fifteen years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A conviction for child neglect can also impact an individual’s parental rights.

Defending Against Neglect Charges

There are many defenses to child neglect charges, including:

  • The acts were merely negligent;
  • Lack of proof of the defendant’s acts or omissions;
  • The defendant was not a caregiver;
  • The harm was not foreseeable;
  • The defendant reasonably believed the child was under another person’s care at the time of the incident;
  • The defendant’s actions were not willful, flagrant or culpably negligent; and
  • The defendant took reasonable steps to try to prevent the abuse.

Child neglect charges are serious and carry severe consequences. Anyone accused of such charges must seek immediate legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney.