Charges of child neglect stemming from the death of an infant while in the care of an unlicensed daycare in Virginia have been dropped, authorities announced.
D.C. criminal defense lawyers understand the decision came following a hearing in which a judge granted a defense motion to strike all evidence in the case.
Part of the reason the judge may have been more apt to grant the motion is that the standard for criminal child neglect charges in Virginia is quite high. It requires that the court show gross negligence or wanton disregard for safety.
However, D.C. Ann. Code 16-2301 allows that neglect is committed when a child:
- Is not reasonably protected by a parent or guardian from abuse inflicted by another;
- Is without proper parental care, control, food, education, shelter, medical treatment or other care that may be necessary to physical, mental or emotional health;
- Is born addicted to drugs or alcohol.
There are, however, key exceptions to this. It is not considered neglect when the deprivation of any of these items is the result of not having enough money to do so. It's also not considered neglect when a parent, in good faith, subjects their child solely to spiritual healing by an accredited practitioner in lieu of medical treatment. Neglect and abuse also doesn't come into play when a parent is disciplining a child. However, this discipline has limits. The following are examples of actions considered to be abuse no matter what:
- Burning, cutting or biting a child;
- Hitting a child with a closed fist;
- Kicking, shaking or throwing a child;
- Any non-accidental injury to a child younger than 1.5 years;
- Interfering with a child's breathing;
- Using a dangerous weapon on a child or threatening to do so.
In this case out of Virginia, there was no abuse alleged. However, neglect was initially alleged for several reasons. First, the facility was not licensed to be operating. Secondly, two adults were placed in charge of 23 children, five of whom were under the age of 1. The oldest child was 4-years-old.
One of the infants, a 3-month-old girl, at one point appeared to stop breathing without warning. One of the two women there called 911, and was instructed on how to perform CPR, which she did. However, by the time she was transported to the hospital, the child was dead.
The cause and manner of death was not determined, which often is an indication of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. The girl had no obvious signs of trauma.
The two workers were both charged with five counts of child neglect - one for each of the infants.
The owners and operators, who were out of the country at the time of the incident, were charged with felony and misdemeanor charges, including reckless endangerment, obtaining money by false pretenses and running an unlicensed daycare. Both received probation.
In dropping the charges against one of the employees, the judge said that as an employee, the worker had no authority to alter the circumstances at the facility and may not have even known the facility was not licensed. Charges against the other worker are expected to be dropped as well.
Although those involved in this case appear to have escaped some of the harshest punishment that could have been meted out, allegations of child neglect or abuse have the potential to result in years behind bars. It's not a situation you want to leave to chance.
Contact an experienced D.C. criminal defense attorney if you have been arrested or suspect you are under investigation.
If you have been arrested in Washington D.C., contact the Law Office of Daniel A. Gross, PLLC at 202-596-5716 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Charges Dismissed Against Worker in Bristow Daycare Death, Dec. 12, 2012, Staff Report, NBC Washington
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Bill: D.C. Criminal Record Shouldn't Hurt Employment Chances, Dec. 7, 2012, Washington D.C. Criminal Defense Attorney