Articles Posted in Child Abuse in Jacksonville

A man is being held in the Pretrial Detention Facility after being charged with aggravated child abuse in Jacksonville.  According to an article in the Florida Times Union, the mother of the child left her boyfriend, the accused, home alone with the two year-old while she went to work.  The woman told police her boyfriend told her he disciplined her daughter because the child misbehaved, according to the report.  The woman reported that the child had cuts and marks when she returned home and the child passed away later that day.  Homicide detectives are still investigating the abuse case and it may turn into a murder case before all is said and done.

It is unclear whether or not the man was interviewed by investigators before or after being arrested.  Police will always try to get a potential suspect to tell their side of the story prior to arresting them.  Police are allowed, even taught in interrogation classes, to lie to suspects to get the suspect to talk about their case.  If police ask you to come down to the police station to “clear things up”, you probably getting handcuffed at the conclusion of the interview.  If you are ever asked to be interviewed by any law enforcement agency, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney first. Discuss your rights before giving them up.  More often than not, there is no benefit for you to talk to the police.

The man was arrested for aggravated child abuse, which is a first degree felony in Florida.  The maximum exposure is thirty years in prison if that is all the man is charged with.  If he is eventually charged with murder, the potential penalties could go even higher.  To prove this Duval County child abuse charge, the State Attorney’s Office have to prove the man willfully caused great bodily harm to the child (aggravated battery), or tortured or caged the child.  Willfully, as defined by Florida statute, means knowingly, intentionally and purposely.  If the man exercised his right to remain silent, it may be difficult for the prosecution to prove the man purposely harmed the child.  The State will attempt to use any alleged conversation with the girl’s mother as evidence against the man.

A young mother has been arrested in Duval County after allegedly leaving her two young children with no supervision, according to a report in the Florida Times Union.  The mother was arrested on one count of child neglect, which is a third degree felony in Florida.  Police claim that the mother left her two children, ages three and five, alone while she went to work.  Apparently someone, probably a neighbor, reported this to the police.  The woman’s children have been placed in foster care pending a family placement while this criminal case progresses.

To be convicted on child neglect in Jacksonville, the State Attorney’s Office must prove that a child’s caregiver, usually a parent, does not provide the child or children with the care, supervision and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health.  A caregiver can be a parent, adult in the house with the child or a person left to watch a child.  A person can also commit  child neglect if they failed to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse or exploitation by another person.  The neglect can be ongoing or only occur only once.

If a person neglects a child and in doing so the child suffers great bodily harm, the person is facing a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.  The neglect charge is lowered to a third degree felony if there is no injury stemming from the neglect.  If the person arrested has no prior criminal history and there is no injury, the defendant is eligible for a Diversion program through the State Attorney’s Office.  This program is discretionary and once accepted, a defendant may have to participate in parenting classes as well as other conditions.  Once the program is complete, all charges will be dropped.

Lonna Barton, the mother of deceased toddler, Lonzie Barton, will be sentenced in Jacksonville this Friday, March 4th.  According to an article in the Florida Times Union, she will be sentenced by the judge with a maximum exposure of five years in prison.  Ms. Barton entered pleas of guilty to a Duval County felony of child neglect and a misdemeanor charge of giving false information to the police.  Her plea agreement included the stipulation that she testify truthfully against her co-defendant Ruben Ebron.  Her testimony became unnecessary after she entered her plea agreement because Ebron finally gave his account of what happened and led the JSO to where the child’s body was hidden.  Ebron has already been sentenced to twenty years in prison in this Duval criminal case.

The Jacksonville Child Neglect charge is a third degree felony in Florida.  To sustain this charge, the prosecutor’s office would have to prove that Ms. Barton willfully, or by culpable negligence by neglecting the child as the child’s caregiver.  Neglect is defined as failing to provide the child with care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health.  This can include not giving the child the proper food for growth, shelter, clothes, supervision or medicine a reasonable person would feel essential for a healthy child.

The Jacksonville misdemeanor Ms. Barton entered a plea to is giving false information to a law enforcement officer during an investigation.  This is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail.  To prove this charge, the state attorney’s office would have to prove she knowingly and willingly gave false information to law enforcement while they were investigating a felony charge.  Intent to mislead the police is a necessary element to this charge.

A Jacksonville police officer was charged last month with child abuse, accused of spanking her son with a plastic hanger.  The incident was reported to police after the child told someone at his school, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The school official is legally required to notify police. The officer, a 12-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, is charged with child abuse. The charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison.

A potential felony conviction could also mean the end of the officer’s law enforcement career. Most law enforcement agencies do not allow people who are convicted of or plead guilty of a felony to be sworn officers. Even if there wasn’t a legal requirement, there likely would be problems for the officer. There is a distinct difference between the criminal justice system and the punishments employers can impose on their employees. And when it comes to law enforcement, perception can be just as important as the facts and legal outcome of the case. Even if the case was reduced to a misdemeanor as part of a plea agreement, which can happen in these types of Jacksonville Felony Cases, that would still cause a perception problem for the officer. The officer chose to go on unpaid leave until the case is resolved, the newspaper reported. Most of these types of cases never make headlines and are never covered by the media, but that always changes when there is a police officer who is the subject of the investigation.

Jacksonville Child Abuse charges can be similar to Jacksonville Sex Crimes in terms of the public’s inclination to assume guilt the minute an accusation is made. People often have their mind up once the person is charged or arrested, without waiting for the case to play itself out through the court system. And once the accusation is made, it can be extremely difficult for the person to clear his or her name – especially with the amount of media coverage that often comes with the arrest.  Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people accused of all types of criminal charges – from misdemeanors on up to serious felonies with potential life sentences – but knows that any charge is serious for the person who is arrested. From employment considerations to the fines and potential incarceration, our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will look at all of the potential consequences and explain them to you or your loved one so you can make an informed decision going forward.

State prosecutors have decided not to charge a Jacksonville man who kicked his stepson down a ramp at a skate park, reportedly to try to teach the 6-year-old to not be afraid to fall. The incident was caught on tape by fellow youth skateboarder and once it went online, it went viral and ended up of newscasts across the nation. Shortly thereafter, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office opened up a criminal investigation, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. That investigation is now complete and the State Attorney’s Office last month chose not to pursue charges against the 27-year-old man.

Prosecutors conceded that there was child abuse in the incident, but that it was not severe enough for the man to go to prison, especially since he did not have a criminal record, the newspaper reported. Had the man been charged, it would have been a child abuse case. Jacksonville Child Abuse Cases vary in severity, but have one thing in common: All are felonies and would have the man facing serious time in state prison. A Jacksonville Child Abuse Case can be anywhere from a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison, on up to a first-degree felony with a maximum of 30 years in prison.

The state takes a variety of factors into consideration when deciding whether or not to file a Jacksonville Child Abuse Case. In this case, the suspect argued he was not trying to hurt the boy, but instead teach him that if he fell down the ramp, he’d survive, and there was nothing to be afraid of. The Florida Department of Children and Families also did its own investigation and the man has since completed anger management courses, which prosecutors cited in their decision not to prosecute. Also, the boy’s mother – who is the wife of the defendant – did not want the state to prosecute the case. Now, the victim’s family does not always dictate the decision on charging a crime, and nor should it. But the state did the right thing here in considering the wishes of the mother, and paying attention to what really happens to the family if the man is sent to prison for several years.

After a naked toddler found wading in a retention pond was brought to safety, police arrested the father on child neglect and drug charges. Police showed pictures of the boy and neighbors directed them to a home with the front door wide open, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police found the father asleep on the couch and found marijuana and a pipe in the kitchen, the newspaper reported. The man told police he thought the boy was in his crib, which he likely was before getting out, opening the front door and walking out of the house.

The man is charged with Jacksonville child neglect, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. In Jacksonville Child Abuse / Neglect cases, child neglect is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison. Both drug charges are first-degree misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in county jail. While the drug charges are separate charges, the mere presence of the drugs likely also played a significant role in the state choosing to file the Jacksonville Child Neglect Case as well. It is conceivable that the father did fall asleep and did not hear the child climb out of his crib and then open the front door and walk outside. Without the drugs, that sounds like an honest mistake. But add drugs to the equation and people immediately think the father did not wake up because he was under the influence of drugs and the case sounds far more sinister.

In many Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases, a defendant may be offered pretrial intervention where he or she can take some substance abuse awareness courses, pass a series of drug tests, along with meeting a variety of other conditions and have the charges dropped. Whether the state would do that in a case that also includes Jacksonville Child Abuse Charges is unknown, but the additional charge could be the deal-breaker. Obviously, the more important charge for the defendant to address is the child neglect charge, because it is a felony. A felony conviction can restrict a person’s right to vote and have a firearm, not to mention significantly narrow the number of professions or employers for whom a person could land a job.

A St. Johns County man and woman are charged with child neglect and felony drug charges after police said they found a methamphetamine lab where a child lived. The two were arrested last week after police were called to investigate a strange smell coming from the home, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police say the smell got stronger once the woman answered the door, the newspaper reported. Police found several items used to make meth and also alleged the drug had recently been produced inside the home.

The suspects are now facing multiple charges in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes case, which could even be enhanced further by the fact the child was in the home. As of now, the charges include child neglect, producing or manufacturing meth, possession of meth, keeping or maintaining a drug dwelling and possession of drug paraphernalia. Production of meth is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison, and the drug paraphernalia charge is a misdemeanor, which only exposes the person to time in the county jail – not state prison. The three other charges are all third-degree felonies, and all have a maximum sentence of up to five years in state prison. So, as of now, the maximum penalty in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case is 26 years behind bars. One charge that hasn’t come yet, but is certainly possible given the facts that have been reported, is producing or manufacturing meth in the presence of a child. That St. Johns County Drug Crime becomes a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison – more than anything either suspect is charged with now combined. This could be something the state chooses to file later, or there may be facts of the case – such as the child being dropped off after the production was complete – that prevent the state from charging it that way. Because meth is essentially the product of several harmful chemicals and emits toxic fumes when it is cooked, laws are very strict in St. Johns County Drug Cases involving meth – especially when children are involved. The odors also make it much more difficult to hide, especially when people are cooking the drug in hotels and apartment complexes where other people are often present.

In St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases, the severity of the charges is determined by the type of drug and the amount. And meth is one drug that carries among the most serious penalties. Any amount of the drug is a felony, and there are multiple charges that almost always come down when police find a meth lab – as these suspects have learned. Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney has represented people facing all types of drug charges, from possession of marijuana on up, and knows the ins and outs of the laws and procedures police must follow to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Even though her child neglect charge was not related to her students and she completed a pretrial intervention program to have the charge dropped, a Jacksonville kindergarten teacher was still fired because of the arrest. The teacher was arrested in June 2013 after she and her husband left their 9-month-old granddaughter in a van by herself while they went into a grocery store, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The teacher told her supervisor about the arrest, which is required by school district policy, but word never travelled to the proper authorities inside the district, the newspaper reported. District officials said they learned of the arrest during a routine update of arrest records for all employees, the newspaper reported, and that’s why it took so long to fire her.

School officials said the teacher accepted responsibility by entering the pretrial program and district policy requires employees to be fired if they have a felony on their record. The teacher is contesting the termination, the newspaper reported. Her attorney is arguing that the crime did not involve a student and, because the charge is dropped, the felony rule does not apply in her case, the newspaper reported. The teacher does not have a previous criminal record, the newspaper reported.

The case exemplifies the difference between punishments levied by Jacksonville Criminal Justice System and by an employer – regardless of whether that employer is private or public. Crimes must be able to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That is not the case for employers. Public employees, such as teachers and police officers, do have more rights in their employment than would someone working for a private company, but the employer still has more discretion than the legal system. A similar scenario played out in Clay County earlier this year, when a school bus driver was fired for alleged abuse of a student, but prosecutors chose not to file charges.

A Clay County middle school teacher accused of putting a student in a choke hold has accepted a plea deal on a Clay County child abuse charge that would end the case, provided he meets certain conditions. Michael Ford was charged in April with child abuse without causing great bodily harm, accused of putting a 13-year-old student in a choke hold and pushing him into a railing, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Ford was fired by the Clay County School Board and was facing a third-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to five years in state prison.

The state now has agreed to place Ford in a pre-trial diversion program, where he has to meet a variety of requirements. If he does, the state will not proceed with the Clay County Child Abuse Case against him. This is fairly common in drug cases for first-time offenders and seems to be a reasonable conclusion to this Clay County Child Abuse case. Ford does not have a criminal record, according to media reports at the time of his arrest, and was charged with a crime for the first time at age 42. The circumstances that led to his arrest were clearly part of his job as a middle school gym teacher and, quite frankly, may have been handled best internally without getting the court system involved. But, schools do have an obligation to protect students and it was likely with an abundance of caution that they called police.

Ford’s obligations in order to have the charge dropped likely include anger management classes and the standard requirements of not picking up and further arrests and passing regular drug tests. Ford is also appealing the school board decision to fire him, the newspaper reported. His job status may have been part of the motivation to take the state’s plea offer in an effort to resolve the Clay County Child Abuse Case as quickly as possible. It’s highly unlikely the board would reinstate Ford while he still has Clay County felony charges pending. But now, he has the agreement in place to put the case behind him and at least accepted some responsibility, which may help in the minds of the board. Pre-trial diversion (also referred to as Duval, Clay and Nassau County PTI) can be very beneficial for people charged with a crime, especially when they are first-time offenders. It can be a means to quickly resolve cases and get the defendant back to his or her normal life as quickly as possible. Unfortunately in our legal system, getting a case to trial takes time. It’s highly unlikely Ford’s case would be wrapped up in two months without this plea agreement. From all media accounts regarding the case, Ford will likely have little problem meeting the pre-trial diversion requirements in this Clay County Child Abuse case and can focus on trying to get his job back.

A Jacksonville day care operator was arrested on a manslaughter charge last week after a 2-year-old boy drowned in a pool on her property last month. The charges were announced three days after the boy died, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Jan Marie Buchanan was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child, a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. She is also charged with operating a child care center without a license, though she was in the process of seeking a license, the newspaper reported. Operating a child care without a license is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in the county jail, so the manslaughter charge is obviously the key charge in this Jacksonville Child Abuse Case. Buchanan was being held in the Duval County jail on a $250,000 bond, meaning it would take $25,000 for her to be released awaiting a trial.

Buchanan told police she had been swimming with the seven children in her care and then brought them all inside, the newspaper reported. She went to go change an infant and, while she did, the boy made it outside through a six or seven-inch opening by a sliding glass door. The lock to the gate to the pool was broken and the alarm that sounds when anyone enters the pool had been turned off due to rain the night before, the newspaper reported. The facts sound as if Buchanan normally took necessary precautions to protect the children in her care, but that this was a perfect storm of events that led to the death of the young boy. This is not a Jacksonville Child Abuse Case where a day care operator is hitting or physically abusing children. And while a license likely would not have prevented the boy’s death, the lack of a license was probably a significant factor in the state filing the charges – and could be a reason they may choose not to negotiate.

The boy’s parents have been supportive of the day care on their Facebook pages, but did not comment to the newspaper once charges were announced. It will be interesting to see if these charges end up being reduced at all in this Jacksonville Child Abuse Case. While the victim or, in this case the family of the victim, doesn’t drive the bus in terms of the level of charges, prosecutors definitely keep their victims’ wishes in mind when making filing and charging decisions. As time and reality sets in, the family may be more willing to see her prosecuted. Or the state may decide, as they say in many cases, that they are looking out for the victim and are the only ones who can see to it that justice is served.