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Mother gets probation in case involving son's death

Posted on January 05, 2011 3:00 AM EST

A local women entered a guilty plea in criminal court to one count of aggravated manslaughter. In exchange for her guilty plea, the state offered a five-year probationary plea. The Miami criminal lawyer representing the defendant told reporters that he was pleased with the result. Satisfied with the plea offer, the circuit court judge presiding over the case ratified the plea. All pleas must be ratified or be amenable to the judge hearing the case above and beyond any agreement between the prosecutor and the defense lawyer. The judge also approved the defendant receiving a withhold of adjudication.

While staying out of jail or prison was important to the defendant, the withhold of adjudication can also be equally as important. A withhold of adjudication is critical, as a defendant who receives this benefit, does not have a criminal conviction on his or her record. A criminal conviction causes individuals to lose their civil rights such as the right to vote or carry, possess or own a firearm. A withhold of adjudication is very important for another reason. A withhold of adjudication will allow a defendant to avail himself or herself of the sealing and expungement process. There is a caveat that only certain criminal offenses are eligible for sealing or expunging. For example, burglary to a structure can be sealed while a dwelling burglary cannot. Cocaine possession charges can be sealed while cocaine trafficking charges cannot. In this case, the defendant will not be able to seal her record because she was charged with manslaughter.

The defendant received an excellent plea deal for a number of reasons. While a normal manslaughter charge is a second degree felony punishable up to 15 years in prison, aggravated manslaughter is a first degree felony punishable up to 30 years in prison. Manslaughter is elevated to aggravated manslaughter when the death involves an elderly person, a child under the age of 18, or the case involves the death of a police officer or firefighter. Despite the fact that the defendant was facing 30 years in prison, she only received a 5 year probationary plea. It should be noted that if the defendant violates probation and a probation violation hearing is set, she is facing the original 30 year prison sentence.

There are several mitigating factors that led to the exceptional plea deal offered to the defendant. The defendant had no prior criminal record to speak of. The reports indicated that she was a hardworking and dedicated mother. There is no indication that the defendant had any prior record for child neglect or child abuse. The defendant allegedly forgot to take the child to school before going to work. The child was inadvertently left in the car and died from excessive heat. The prosecution explained the plea by saying the worst penalty the defendant could face was the loss of her child. The case is an example of how mitigation and extenuation can allow a defendant to avoid prison or jail.

Miami-Dade Mother Gets Probation in Toddler Son's Death, The Miami-Hearld.com, January 1, 2011.
Categories: Sentencing