Judge Dismisses Case Against Woman Who Left Her Daughter in a Hot Car for 6 Hours
A Florida judge has dismissed a case against a Tallahassee woman who left her child in a hot car for 6 hours during her work shift. Prosecutors had charged the woman with aggravated manslaughter charges in July of 2022. The boy was 11 months old at the time of his death. His mother worked for Big Bend Hospice.
Aggravated manslaughter charges in Tallahassee, FL
The crime of aggravated manslaughter is considered a first-degree felony under Florida law. It is punishable by a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison. The crime is considered a negligence crime and not an intentional crime.
Prosecutors must establish that:
- The victim died
- The death of the victim was caused by the culpable negligence of the defendant
- The victim was elderly, disabled, or a child and the victim’s death was due to the neglect of the defendant
- The victim was a first-responder (firefighter, police officer, EMT) who was performing their duties at the time of the accident
What is culpable negligence?
Culpable negligence, as defined by Florida Statutes, is a course of conduct that results from a reckless disregard for human life. While murder is defined as an intentional act, manslaughter is defined differently. In a manslaughter prosecution, the state must be able to establish that the defendant took a reckless action that showed a wanton disregard for the victim. In the case mentioned above, the judge ruled that the incident was an accident and did not emerge from a place of culpable negligence. It appears that the mother simply forgot that her child was in the vehicle at the time she left them there.
Prosecutions of parents who leave their children in hot cars do occur. But, in many cases, it is difficult for prosecutors to state the defendant was guilty of culpable negligence. In this case, a judge ruled that the defendant made no conscious decision to leave the child in the car unattended. While the defendant may have been guilty of negligence, culpable negligence has a higher standard of proof under the law. The judge ruled that this was a single inadvertent act of negligence and did not rise to the standard of culpable negligence. Hence, the defendant was exonerated for this tragic act and not held criminally responsible under the law.
While manslaughter may not be a crime of intent per se, the defendant must evince a casual disregard for the rights and safety of others. So, there is a lack of care about the outcome of course of conduct that is considered wanton and reckless. As an example, vehicular homicide is charged on the grounds of culpable negligence. If the defendant was going 55 mph in a residential area and struck and killed a child, the defendant could be charged with vehicular homicide which is very similar to manslaughter. While the defendant may not have wanted to kill a child, they operated their vehicle in such a way that showed they didn’t care if they hit a child or not.
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Tallahassee criminal defense lawyer Luke Newman, P.A. represents the interests of those who are charged with serious crimes. Call our office today to schedule an appointment and we can begin discussing your case right away.