What are the circumstances that justify a law enforcement officer taking a child into protective custody and away from the child’s parents?
Under Florida law a law enforcement officer is authorized to take a child into protective custody if the officer has probable cause that the child has been “abused, neglected or abandoned, or is in imminent danger of illness or injury as a result of abuse, neglect or abandonment.”
Child protective custody attorney
While such laws certainly are necessary in today’s world, these laws can be misconstrued and become the source of injustice.
Such a case occurred in North Augusta, South Carolina, where a nine-year-old girl was left by her mother at a public park near the mom’s work. The little girl had a cell phone and during two days she played in the park with approximately 40 other kids. There were swings, a “splash pad” and shade. On the third day at the park, an unknown adult asked the little girl where her mom was and she replied “at work.” The shocked adult called the cops. The division of children services took the child into protective custody and declared she was an “abandoned” child, and her mother was arrested.
If we think back to the 1950’s and 1960’s, we, who are old enough, can remember a time when children went to parks by themselves and played, sometimes most of the day without adult supervision (and returned home happy and safe).
How have we come to a time when letting one’s child play in a park with some 30 other kids would lead to arresting the child’s mom and taking the child away from her parents?
Because some stranger thought she knew more about the girl’s safety than the girl’s own mother–a family has now been separated and the mother is in jail.
This case is an example of how “what if the little girl was kidnapped or molested” thinking has become the standard by which the cops evaluate probable cause. Yet with that line of reasoning, the police can arrest almost anyone because, hey, “what if.”
If something like this happened to you, contact Sarasota criminal defense attorney James Dirmann today.