Crime and Judgment: Hot Car Death in Palm Harbor, Florida

The judgments we make about those who are accused of crimes is interesting. During an exercise class yesterday, I overheard two women talking about the recent death of a child left in a hot car, in Palm Harbor, Florida. They were saying how horrible it was that the father had been arrested. How no punishment the government could give would ever be more than he punished himself. (One of the women knew the man). Also, that 80% of these crimes are dropped by the prosecution. (I have no idea where they got that statistic) Despite the fact the I represent all kinds of people accused of crimes, to me, this is one of the most horrible. I have 2 kids. I completely understand how lack of sleep and stress cause you to forget things. But I can't understand how this could happen. The backstory is this: A Hillsborough County fireman left his 23 month old son in the car from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. He was supposed to drop the child off at daycare, but actually forgot about his son and left him in the car. He even got back into the car in the afternoon to go to Publix, and didn't see the child. When he finally realized his mistake, it was too late. What was interesting to me about the conversation, is how sympathetic these women were to the father because they knew him. They knew him to be a nice guy and a good father. Those same people are very unsympathetic to others charged with crimes. Look at Facebook posts about crimes, especially drug crimes, and read the comments people make about the arrested person. Usually, the person hasn't been convicted, merely charged. Rarely does the commentor know the arrested person. If we live in America, then we have bought into the idea of "innocent until proven guilty". That may be a legal fiction, but I've never seen anyone trying to change it. And if we're Americans and Christians, we really shouldn't be making those judgments. It's simply not our place. Then I thought about how judgmental I was, since I think this father should be charged with a crime. Simply to be punished. (the criminal justice system in Florida is not for rehabilitation) Yet I know nothing about the guy. I don't know his life story, why this happened, or how it could have. Like all parents, I mistakenly believe this could never happen to me. It's interesting how the people I represent become so real to me. I often know their parents, their spouses, their children. I know where they work, grew up, whether they came from a broken home. Because I know my clients, I don't judge them as people for whatever they might be accused of. The ability to be sympathetic toward my clients makes my arguments more persuasive. If you are charged with a crime, no one knows your story. No one will ever hear your side of the story, your defense, your reasons. You will be judged because of this. If you want your story told - call me. And don't post it on Facebook.      

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Former State Prosecutor — Clearwater, FL 15+ Years Experience
Stephanie's clients come from all walks of life and are usually the type of people who would never be considered “criminals.” Her main goal is not to let one mistake ruin the rest of their lives. Read More
Daniel N. Pawuk's Profile Image
Former State Prosecutor — Tampa & Clearwater, FL 15+ Years Experience
Dan is a hands-on advocate who will keep you informed about your case and educated about your options. Despite the number of cases he has handled, no case is ever a number to Dan. Read More

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