Police are investigating the death of a toddler in a daycare van as a possible manslaughter after the boy appeared to die in the car on a hot summer day. It’s typical for cases such as these to be tried as manslaughter but they typically occur due to negligent parents and not negligent daycares. The daycare faces the possibility of a wrongful death lawsuit and at least one of their employees faces the possibility of a manslaughter charge if it can be determined that the daycare employee left the child in the car without ventilation and air conditioning on a hot summer day.
There are a number of elements to a prosecution such as this but one of them does not involve proving the defendant had guilty intent or knew their actions had a strong likelihood to cause harm to anyone.
In 2012, a daycare employee was sentenced to prison after leaving a boy in a hot SUV. The boy died in 2012. Two other daycare employees were charged with the crime and they both were given probation.
The key to proving a manslaughter charge is proving culpable negligence. While the term “negligence” is more known for liabilities in tort cases, culpable negligence is also a crime in Florida. It means doing something or failing to do something that an individual knows or should know could cause serious harm to someone else. It means recklessly endangering the life of another person or showing a casual disregard for the rights and safety of others.
In a case like this, even if the child was not injured at all, the defendant could be charged with a third-degree felony simply for having left the child in the car. If the child sustained some injury, then the charge goes up to a second-degree felony. If the child dies, then it’s a first-degree felony and culpably negligent manslaughter.
While the charge is largely considered less serious than first- or second-degree murder, it carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. Meanwhile, the daycare has been shut down while police investigate the situation.
The Death of Children in Cars by the Numbers
So far this year, there have been 24 deaths of children who were left in hot cars. The year before, 53 children died as a result of being left in a hot car. Cars left out on hot days become ovens to anything inside them. They can reach temperatures of 130℉.
In a case like this, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to show how the child died. This means proving that heat exposure resulted in the child’s death. The rest is rather easy. That the child was left in the car is not going to be a question for debate. What will be a question is why the child was left in the car. If it was a matter of convenience, the defendants have a problem. If the child was complaining of being sick, then defendants have less of a problem, but still may face prison time.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a crime involving culpable negligence, you need an experienced West Palm Beach criminal attorney who understands the law and can successfully advocate on your behalf. Call The Skier Law Firm today and set up an appointment.