Articles Posted in Crimes Against Children

College-Campus-150x150College should be an experience full of adventure, learning, and growing for students. Unfortunately for some of these students, the college experience is ruined by immature and mean-spirited acts of hazing in fraternities and sororities.  There are physical and psychological effects from such hazing events.  In 2019, the Florida legislature passed a new set of Hazing Laws that could apply to situations that take in place in fraternities and sororities.

Law makers are cracking down on hazing across the country, but in Florida especially. The laws have evolved with the unfortunate nature of hazing. It should be noted that the absence from a particular hazing event is no longer looked at as a lack of involvement in the eyes of law enforcement. Even if an individual was not physically present at the hazing event, if he or she helped plan it, he or she can be subject to criminal charges. While this provision will most likely affect organization leaders, the new law could also hold school administrator’s responsible. This new provision is meant to act as a catch-all regardless of an individual’s level of involvement, as in the past general chapter members have gotten away with hazing, while only the heavily involved and officers were charged.

The new law is called Andrew’s Law, named after Andrew Coffey, a Florida State Univesity student who died in 2017 from alcohol poisoning. He was participating in a fraternity ritual where he was required to drink an entire fifth of alcohol, following the instructions from his “big brother”. Andrew was 20 years old when he died with a blood alcohol level nearly six times the legal limit, after falling into unconsciousness and being left alone until the next day. Florida State Univesity’s Greek Life program was altered by the school’s president after Andrew’s death.  The Chad Meredith Act was also signed in 2005 following the hazing death of a University of Miami student who died tragically in a fraternity hazing incident in 2001. The Act made hazing a first-degree misdemeanor and a third-degree felony if a victim was seriously injured or killed. surveillance equipment in the home, day care centers, and schools can and do go a long way in identifying abuse and preventing it.  When an infant or toddler is being abused or neglected, the child does not have the ability to advocate for himself or herself; however, a video showing such abuse can do the talking for the child.  A caregiver should exhibit restraint, love, and patience when supervising a child.  Unfortunately, there are far too many instances of abuse and neglect by the very people who are supposed to protect a child – the caregiver.

Parents should be aware of signs of abuse or neglect. An abused child will have frequent, unexplained injuries like bruises, black eyes, or cuts and often wear unusual clothing to hide these marks. A child may  seem withdrawn or have very stifled emotional reactions to things, especially pain. An abused child can often seem watchful, as if he or she is waiting for something bad to happen. A neglected child may have bad hygiene, lack proper bathing or have a noticeable body odor. Clothes can be ill-fitting or unwashed. Neglected children are frequently left unsupervised or allowed to play in unsafe situations. These are all indicators of abuse after it has already happened, but there are some methods to obtain proof of abuse.

A “nanny cam” is a webcam or other small camera placed in a parent’s home where they can monitor their babysitter to see if they are taking proper care of the children. These cameras can even be connected to the internet so parents can watch in real-time. Nanny cams are an effective way to gather evidence of a caretaker abusing a child in the event of a criminal or civil lawsuit.  While a nanny cam can document abuse, the video / audio content of the nanny cam is not always admissible in a civil or criminal case.  The admissibility of such evidence will be determined by the applicable laws in place and the rulings of the judge assigned to the case.  The State of Florida is a “two-party consent state,” which means that, if the nanny cam records both video and audio, parents must notify the babysitter that they are going to be recorded. If there is no consent, nanny cam video or audio might be ruled inadmissible in legal proceedings, according to Florida Statute section 934.03. Nonetheless, nanny cams are the among the best ways to show definitive proof of child abuse, especially when the child is unable to properly communicate.  When hiring a nanny, it may be advisable to have the nanny sign an employment form which advises the nanny that the home is equipped with audio and video equipment at random parts of the home.  While this will give the nanny notice that he or she is being watched, it does not necessary inform the nanny where the equipment is set up.  If the parent incorporates this language into a longer document, the nanny may ultimately forget what he or she signed and still engage in abusive conduct that is documented on the video even with knowledge of the equipment in place.

Video-Surveillance-150x150A valuable tool that can both help monitor the care of children and punish nannies, babysitters, and other child care providers when there is neglect and abuse is the nanny cam. Certainly, it would be a perfect world if every child care provider was trained, patient, and perfectly attentive to the child. Unfortunately, many nannies and child care providers take out their anger and frustration on an innocent child. Babies by their nature will cry and be fussy. That just goes with the territory of watching over a child. When a baby cries, it is never ever appropriate or proper to shake the child. One shaking incident can lead to a lifelong medical problems for the child and even the wrongful death of a child. When these types of acts are caught on video through a hidden nanny cam, the video would be a strong piece of evidence to convict the wrongdoer and also to deter others from engaging in such dangerous and callous acts.

An incident that took place in Jacksonville, Florida exemplifies the unfortunate reality of parents uncovering abuse to their children by hired childcare providers through footage from a nanny cam. It was reported that a mother discovered her nanny aggressively shaking her two-year-old son after watching a video she recorded from a camera hidden inside her son’s lunchbox. Unfortunately, Florida’s two-party consent laws prevent this mother from using the recording she obtained from her nanny cam in court because hidden camera footage does not have the consent of both the recorder and the person being recorded. Though the mother in this case from Jacksonville is trying to convince the legislature to alter the law so that nanny cam footage may be used in court, she currently cannot use the footage she obtained of her nanny abusing her toddler.

Though hidden camera recordings like the one obtained by the Jacksonville mother are not admissible in Florida courts, some types of nanny cam footage may be. Florida Statute Section 934.03 is the law that prevents individuals from recording audio without the consent of both parties. Because it only precludes the use of oral communication recordings, nanny cams that only take videos without audio recordings could be admissible as well as nanny cams that only capture photos without any video or audio components. Additionally, a parent may be able to use audio and visual footage obtained from a nanny cam in court if they obtain informed, written consent from the nanny to record him or her on video cameras within the home or other areas under surveillance prior to the abuse proceedings arising. Nonetheless, parents should still consult an experienced attorney for advice pertaining to their specific situation before installing a nanny cam. In the tragic event that a nanny or childcare provider does abuse one’s child, the parent should consult with an Experienced Child Injury attorney about the potential cause of action that may be brought on behalf of the child because the family may be entitled to a damages award for the injuries the child sustained.

Hazing-Fraternity-Sorority-150x150In the State of Florida, it is a crime for a person to haze another person.  It is not a defense to the action if the hazing, abuse, or pressure is connected to admission, entry, or membership into an organization, club, fraternity, or sorority.  It should be noted that the crime of hazing is different from a prior and element standpoint than a civil case on behalf of a victim subjected to hazing acts like physical abuse or drinking games that lead to serious injury or even death of the victim, pledge, or applicant.  With respect to a civi case involving negligence or abusive conduct, there are four elements to establish:


Breach of Duty;

4_ToysIn day care centers throughout Florida including Miami, the children enrolled in the child care facility should be provided with safe and nurturing environment.  It is important for child care providers and workers to have proper training, common sense, and, yes, patience to work with children.  If working with children causing a person stress to the point that a child is hit and struck by a day care center work, that particular worker should be removed from the job, go to jail, and ultimately find a new career.  Working with children is no easy task; however, employment in a child care facility or day care center is a voluntary choice by a day care worker.  As such, no-one is forcing the day care worker to take the position.  Unfortunately, far too many instances of abuse and neglect go unnoticed and unreported.  Parents are kept in the dark and the children in the day care center are often victims without a voice and without the power to stop their abusers.  However, in many other instances, the day care center worker is caught in the act by another co-worker, management, parents, or other children who take that bold step to report the incident and have the conduct addressed. It is clear that day care center workers should use their efforts and abilities to act in the best interest of the children.  It is well known that the care and supervision of a children are not easy tasks; nevertheless, in Florida day care centers, corporal punishment is prohibited.  There is no excuse or defense to the hitting, torturing, and harming of a child enrolled in a day care center by a the very people responsible for caring for the child.

It was reported by various media outlets that a day care center through a private charter school in Miami Beach was the site of the corporal punishment / abuse of children under the care of the child care center.  In particular, a video surveillance camera revealed that a child care worker documented the hitting, twisting of arms, and other abuse of children who were in the 2 to 3 year old age group.  When the abuse originally came to light, no immediate arrests were made.  Then, after a week or so of further investigation by social service and local law enforcement, the day care center worker – Clara Luz Quintero-Gonzalez – was arrested.  For more information regarding these incidents, see Miami, Florida Day Care Center Worker Arrested for Hitting Children Under her Care at the Lincoln Marti Day Care Center.

It should be noted that the criminal prosecution of a day care center worker is not a prerequisite or requirement for a parent to bring a civil action or claim on behalf of a child who was injured or harmed by a day care center provider.  Certainly, it is quite compelling when a day care center worker is arrested following an allegation of abuse or neglect.  Furthermore, having video surveillance that actually documents the alleged abuse or neglect can be used as evidence in the potential criminal case or civil case of abuse / neglect in a day care center.  If there is believed to probable cause that a crime was committed, an arrest can and should be made. The further prosecution of the defendant will depend on the evidence gathered and potential defenses (if any) that may be raised in response to the allegations.  The criminal allegations must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  For a civil case, the standard of proof is by the preponderance of the evidence with is lesser standard than for a criminal case.

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In the State of Florida, corporal punishment is prohibited in day care centers.  There are strong public policy and safety reasons for having such a law in place.  It does not matter that the teacher of the day care center was subjected to corporal punishment as part of his or her upbringing.  Furthermore, a parent cannot and should consent to the imposition of corporal punishment at a day care center since it is against the law.   Toddlers and small children should learn by instruction and restrictions that DO NOT involve physical harm, pinching, punching, withholding of food, false imprisonment, or other acts that are neglectful and / or malicious in manner.   Because of this, it is important that Florida day care centers are staffed with trained and caring individuals who have the personality, patience, and maturity to deal with the stresses and demands of the job.  Certainly, it is challenging to be a day care center worker or child care provider.   When the stress intensifies, the day care worker / child care worker should step back and assess or reassess his or her current actions, his or next actions, and the rest of the day.

In Quincy, Florida, it was reported that a day care center worker at All My Children Learning Center is facing criminal charges of battery and cruelty to a child.  It was reported that a day care center teacher pinched a 4 year old child under her care to the point that the child was bruised and needed medical attention.
There may be a number of legal cases that result from corporal punishment cases or incidents including the following:

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In Florida and other States, day care centers and their staff members are responsible for the safety and well-being of the children enrolled in the day care center.  This responsiblity is truly among the most important in our society.  While the pay is not the highest of all occupations, the responsibilities are nonetheless so important.  Most day care centers and their staff members work conscientiously every day to provide for the needs and educational development of the children. There are, however, a number of Florida Day Care Centers that cut corners, employ less than stellar employers, and sadly abuse the very children that the day care center is paid to supervise and protect.   When a day care center abuses or neglects a child under its care, should the Florida Department of Children and Families step in and revoke the day care center’s license?  There is no simple answer to this question.  Like many other legal questions, the answer is “it depends”.  The Florida Department of Children and Families is responsible for the licensure and supervision of day care centers.  When a child is abused or neglected, it should be reported to and investigagted by the Florida Department of Children and Families.  Day care centers in Florida are governed by the Florida Adminstraive Code and other regulation. There is due process to be followed any time that sanctions are sought to be brought against a licensed day care center.  If the child continues to be in danger or there are other children in immiment danger, immediate action should be taken to close down the day care center – at least on a temporary basis – so that a proper investigation can be completed and there is no further harm done to that child or other children.

Whether the Florida Department of Children and Families takes action to shut down the facility or not, the parents of the injured child can still seek out legal advice and representation for the injured child.  The civil case or claim is not dependent on the DCF investigation and findings.  While it would be helpful to have a DCF report filled with helpful statements, evidence, and findings that a child was neglected or abused at the day care center, the DCF does not control the civil case or claim.

In Polk County, Florida, it was reported that the Cypress Oaks School in Winter Haven continues to operate.  The Florida Department of Children and Families previously investigated the facility and issued a fine to the owner. There were discussions of revoking the license; however, the Florida DCF ultimatley decided to allow the day care center to continue to operate as long as it was operated by a different owner.   You can read more about this story at 9 Investigates – Day Care Center Connected to Abuse Allegations Remains Open. 

In Florida and other States, it takes a special and caring kind of individual to properly supervise children in a school, summer camp, or day care center setting. Child care providers should be well trained and have that certain personality the exudes patience, love, and common sense. The best interest of the child should be the focal point of the care. For the time period that the day care center worker is on duty, the day care worker’s attention and goodwill should be focused on the job at hand. Unfortunately, children far too often fall victim to a child care provider who lacks the common sense and patience to properly perform the job. Whether it is a pattern of bad conduct or a one time incident, children in day care centers suffer injuries as a result of rough discipline or even worse deliberate corporal punishment. It should be made clear that children are fragile and should be handled with care. They should not be treated in a rough manner that can and does lead to serious personal injuries. When a child is injured at a day care center, a civil case may be pursued on behalf of the injured child. When the facts support a criminal prosecution, the State of Florida may pursue criminal charges against the day care center worker. When a person is arrested for child abuse or neglect whether in a day care center setting or elsewhere, Florida and constitutional law mandate that the Defendant have the benefit of legal representation from a private criminal defense attorney or the local public defender. Yes, a day care center worker charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, while reports in newspapers can be quite gripping, the legal case (whether criminal or civil in nature) will have far more details and information than a brief newspaper article. As such, cases – whether civil or criminal – should go through the proper processes and procedures.

A day care center injury was recently reported in Palm Bay Florida in which a day care center workers was arrested for allegedly causing injuries to a 4 year old boy. The incident reportedly took place at Woodlake Child Development Center. The story was reported by WESH Channel 2 News – Orlando, Florida. You can read more about this story at Day Care Center Worker Arrested in Central Florida.

In Florida, day care centers are regulated by Florida Statutes and the Florida Administrative Codes. Licenses and inspections are handled by the Florida Department of Children and Families. It is important for day care centers and the staff members to comply with these laws, the facilitity policy and procedures, and just the necessary common sense that goes hand in hand with providing reasonable and appropriate supervision of children.

education%20school%20day%20care%20black%20chalkboard%20with%20letters%20capital%20and%20small%20letters.jpgIn Florida and other States, day care centers should be safe havens for children. A day care center should be a place where a child is supervised by care providers who understand and appreciate the needs of children. In most instances, a day care center is a supportive and safe environment for children. However, there are facilities where a child has been harmed by the very individuals charged with protecting them. In some instances, it is a family member of the day care center operator or employee. The abuse, neglect, and, yes, sexual assault of a child in a day care center is reported far too often. It is these horrible acts that give a parent pause as to the use of a day care center facility at all. Unfortunately, the acts of the few often times affect the mindset or opinion of others.

When a child is sexually assaulted at a day care center, the actions or inactions of a parent or guardian can have a significant impact on the child. Furthermore, the actions or inactions of a parent or guardian can have a significant impact on a potential criminal investigation or prosecution of a case. If a parent suspects that a child has been harmed at a day care center, a parent can take a number of actions to both protect the child and to prosecute the wrongdoer. In Winter Haven, Florida, it was reported that a 3 year old boy was allegedly molested by a day care operator’s husband. When the mother picked up the boy from the day care center, the mother asked her son a very common question – how was your day? The boy responded by stating that “Mr. Gardner licked my pee pee.”

The mother remained calm and went home with the child where she asked him again about his day and for the child to show his mother on a teddy bar what had happened. Thereafter, the mother took the boy to a local hospital where he was examined and DNA evidence was gathered. Through a criminal investigation and legal intervention, the suspect – Carroll Gardner – was required to provide a DNA sample which matched the sample taken from the boy. Based on the boy’s testimony and DNA evidence gathered, it would appear that there is a strong criminal case against Mr. Gardner. Of course, like other Florida criminal matters, Mr. Gardner will be entitled to representation by a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney or the local Public Defender’s Office.

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Is the Ignorance of the Victim's Age or Bona Belief in the Child's Age a Legal Defense in a Criminal Case for Lewd or Lascivious Battery, Molestation, Conduct or Exhibition? The simple answer to this question is "No".

Section 800.04 (3), Florida Statutes defines the following crimes:

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