News outlets in Jacksonville have recently been buzzing with details about the deaths of several infants whose parents have left them in the car during a hot summer day. This situation sounds like every parent’s worst nightmare; however, some parents have come under suspicion of purposefully leaving their child in a hot car, with the intent of having the child dying from the heat.
The first case to make national news came from suburban Atlanta, where Justin Ross Harris left his son,22 month oldCooper, in his car while he went to work. When Harris returned to the car, he drove for several miles before calling the police about his son. Investigators for the case began to depict Harris as an unhappily married man, who desperately wanted a way out of the responsibilities of his family. They claimed he was willing to let his son die so he could remove a burden from his life. After more allegations from prosecutors, Harris made the correct decision to hire a criminal defense attorney.
Child deaths from heatstroke, or hyperthermia, after remaining in a hot car are not recent phenomena. According to the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, since 1998, approximately 606 children in the United States died from heatstroke after being left in a car. Many of these deaths have different circumstances—from a child playing in an unattended vehicle to being intentionally left by an adult—and sentencing for liable parties in these cases have also varied.
In a study by the Associated Press in 2007, charges were filed in half of all cases, even though in many instances the child was left unintentionally. Mothers were generally treated harsher than fathers, as they were jailed more often, and their jail sentences were an average of two years longer than terms received by fathers. Caregivers were charged and convicted most often, but their median jail sentence was much lower than that of parents. According to the study, preconceived notions of the role of mothers, fathers, and caregivers were likely the cause of the difference in sentencing. Mothers were held to a higher standard for their role in family life compared to fathers, and sentencing followed this trend.
Given that sentencing for child neglect can vary so widely, it is critically important that a person charged with this crime hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense attorney should be able to build a defense for you so you can achieve the best result possible with your case. For criminal defense lawyer representation in Jacksonville, please contact me, James Davis, by phone at (904) 358-0420.