A Florida mom was arrested and charged with felony child neglect for letting her son go to the park by himself.
“I’m totally dumbfounded by this whole situation,” said Nicole Gainey, the mother at the center of the case.
The whole incident unfolded last Saturday when Gainey’s 7-year-old son Dominic asked if he could go to the park by himself. Gainey told him he could walk to the park on his own, adding that she “was letting him go play,” and “didn’t think she was doing anything wrong.”
The park in question is about a half mile from their home, and Dominic said it usually takes him about 10 minutes to get there. During the walk Dominic passed by a public pool, and a concerned adult asked him where his parents were. Flustered by the continued questions, Dominic ran off to the park. The adult who stopped Dominic by the pool phoned authorities, and they picked Dominic up and gave him a ride back to his house.
Police could have just dropped Dominic off, but they decided to put his mom in handcuffs for child neglect. Gainey was shocked and appalled by the arrest.
“My own bondsman said my parents would have been in jail every day,” said Gainey, who paid nearly $4,000 in bond fees to secure her release.
Gainey said the arresting officer repeatedly lectured her on the number of sex offenders in the area.
“He just basically kept going over that there’s pedophiles and this and that and basically the park wasn’t safe and he shouldn’t be there alone,” said Gainey.
Gainey believes that the half mile walk is safe enough for her son during the day, adding that he has a cell phone and they check in with one another regularly.
Gainey plans to fight the charge, but she added that she won’t let Dominic go to the park alone anymore out of fear that she’ll be arrested again.
Avery Appelman comments
Like most states, felony child neglect is subjective and determined on a case-by-case basis. For example, on a cool August day, how old does a child have to be before a father can leave him unsupervised in the car while he runs into the gas station to pick up a gallon of milk? 5 years old? 10 years old? How long will the child be in the car? These are all factors that help authorities decide if charges should be filed.
This crime occurred in St. Lucie, Florida. There is no law that specifies that a child needs to be a certain age before they can go somewhere unsupervised, so again, it’s up to the cops to look at all the factors in the case.
Ultimately I don’t believe these charges will stick. Whether or not you believe Gainey was in the right or wrong, simply bringing the child home, talking to the mother about the sex offenders in the area, and mentioning that another violation could lead to child neglect charges probably would have resulted in the same outcome. Gainey would have got the message. Instead, she now has to spend money on an attorney to fight felony charges because a cop decided this was the best way to look out for the safety of a child.
Related source: Fox 6 News