Recently in Offenses Against Children Category

February 21, 2012

Davie Man Arrested on 144 Counts of Child Pornography

A South Florida resident was picked up in Kissimmee, Florida pursuant to an arrest warrant issued out of Broward County. The defendant is accused of multiple counts of possession of child pornography. Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigators in conjunction with the Pembroke Pines and Davie Police Department discovered that Orville Bulitt had advertised child pornography on a file sharing website. Law enforcement was able to trace the images back to the defendant which led to his subsequent arrest. Broward County set the bond at $1.4 million. The defendant is unemployed, making it unlikely that the bond would be posted. Once the extradition process has been completed with the defendant being transferred to Broward County, a criminal attorney will mostly be appointed by the court to represent his interests.

Bulitt has faced serious charges involving sex crimes in Miami-Dade County. He was charged in 2003 with two counts of sexual battery on a minor. His Miami criminal attorney was successful in having the counts dismissed prior to trial. However, a records check revealed that the defendant has entered a guilty plea in 1985 to the crime of sexual molestation of victim under the age of 12. The defendant was sentenced to 10 years of reporting probation. He was not required to register as a sexual offender as he completed his sentence prior to 1997. In 1997, the Florida legislature passed a law requiring defendants convicted of certain sex crimes to register as sexual offenders and sexual predators with FDLE.

Once law enforcement became aware of Bulitt's involvement with child pornography, they served a warrant at his address and discovered the child pornography images on his laptop and other storage devices. The pictures that were discovered appear to be of children under the age of 10 depicted in various sexual positions. The images include both boys and girls, but it is yet to be determined whether the defendant created the images or merely downloaded them onto his computer. The investigation has been open for about a year. FDLE blamed the delay in the arrest and prosecution of the shorthandedness of the cyber crimes division and the number of charges filed against the defendant.

Prosecuting child pornography cases has become a priority for local, state and federal authorities. All prosecutors' offices have specialized units whose sole function is to prosecute and punish defendants charged with computer related child pornography offenses. Anyone being investigated by law enforcement for possession of child pornography or any other sexual crimes involving children face serious prison sentences. As such, individuals involved in cases with these types of charges should hire a criminal lawyer as soon as practicable. Additionally, anyone being investigated for these types of offenses should refuse to speak to law enforcement as any statements made will in most circumstances be admissible and quite damning in court.

Davie Man Faces 144 Counts of Child Pornography, Miami Herald.com, February 17, 2012.

October 6, 2011

Parents Can Be Convicted of Kidnapping

The Florida Supreme Court affirmed a conviction and held that parents can be charged and convicted of kidnapping their own children. A Miami-Dade County jury convicted Ricardo Davilla of kidnapping his 11 year-old son in Sweetwater at the family's home soon after arriving from Nicaragua. At trial, testimony came out that the defendant tied up the child, locked him up for weeks at time in closets and bathrooms and repeatedly beat him with a broomstick. Other allegations include that the child was sometimes blindfolded and gagged with a handkerchief. The defendant claimed that the child was being punished for lying and failing to wash dishes. Miami criminal lawyers often defend kidnapping charges, however, defending parents charged with crimes is highly atypical.

Kidnapping is a first degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. The charge often accompanies other charges like carjacking, home invasion robbery and armed robbery. Kidnapping can occur in a variety of ways. First, kidnapping is defined as forcibly, secretly, or by threat confining, abducting, or imprisoning another person against his or her will. It is also the same definition attributed to false imprisonment. For kidnapping to occur, the defendant must also (1) hold a victim for ransom or reward, or (2) wrongfully imprison someone during the commission of a felony, or (3) inflict bodily harm upon someone or terrorize the victim, or (4) interfere with the performance of any governmental or political function. The defendant was charged and convicted of kidnapping based on the bodily harm and terror inflicted upon the child.

The child's mother was also charged with multiple counts of aggravated child abuse, child neglect and false imprisonment. After the jury convicted the mother, the judge sentenced her to 30 years in prison. The Supreme Court upheld the father's conviction by a 6 to 1 vote. The chief justice dissented by saying, "It is by no means obvious that the kidnapping statute is aimed at protecting young children from their own custodial parents." While the law certainly allows for parents to discipline their children, there are limits. Cases have been handed down which delineate the difference between acceptable punishment and child abuse.

Corporal punishment of children has also been permitted with limits. The law generally frowns on parents using objects as belts and paddles, with criminal charges generally being filed for parents who use extension cords and coat hangers. Prosecutors take cases where marks or welts are left on children after the physical punishment has been delivered. Parents who go overboard with physical punishment can and will charged with aggravated child abuse which under Florida law is a second degree felony punishable up to 15 years in prison. While criminal attorneys are retained to defend these types of charges, the best advise is to use restraint when punishing your children.

Florida Parental Kidnapping Conviction Affirmed, Miami Herald.com, October 6, 2011.

September 22, 2011

Florida Legislature Reacts To Anthony Trial

As usual, the Florida legislature always reacts to high-profile criminal law cases. After a jury acquitted Casey Anthony, the public became outraged that such a villainous defendant could walk free. The result, state politicians have submitted multiple bills seeking to modify Florida's child neglect laws already on the books trying to fill the gaps in the state statutes. Miami criminal defense attorneys are familiar with the current child neglect and child abuse laws as they have not been significantly modified over te past decade. The legislature wants to specifically create a statute that makes it a crime for failing to report a child missing. While Anthony was acquitted, proponents of the legislature believe such a statute would have led to her conviction.

Opponents of the new legislature believe that the creation of news laws also create unintended affects. Florida along with the rest of the states do not have a statute which makes it illegal to fail to report a missing child. Eight bills have been filed in Florida and 25 other states are considering similar legislation. A Republican senator told the Select Committee on Protecting Florida's Children that the Florida laws on child neglect already cover such a scenario. Florida's current child neglect statute already provides for a crime where a defendant fails to care for a child's physical and mental health. Prosecutors did not charge Anthony with any form of child neglect for failing to report her child missing.

Florida has seen the unintended consequences of laws passed by the legislation as a result of high-profile cases. In 2005, following the murder of a 9 year-old girl named Jennifer Lunsford, legislators passed news laws in an effort to crack down on sex offenders convicted of crimes such as sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct. The initial laws were passed, but had to be changed as sexual offenders and sexual predators found their only refuge under the Julia Tuttle Causeway. After much media attention, the laws were modified and public housing was provided for sexual offenders who could not find places to live. No one knows what the unintended consequences would be if the child neglect laws are modified, but many legislators are convinced that Anthony would still be behind bars if a failure to report a missing child law was passed.

Child neglect and child abuse are currently felonies under Florida Law. To prove he offense of child neglect, the state has to prove that defendant wilfully or by culpable negligence failed or omitted to provide a child with care supervision and services necessary to maintain the child's physical or mental health. Failing to report a missing child certainly seems to fit within the statutes purview. While a parent failing to report a missing child is an uncommon event, the legislation should hold off on passing news and unnecessary legislature until a case can be prosecuted on the laws as they stand. Adding unneeded statutes to the books in response to a high-profile media case seems to be an overreaction, while it is quite apparent that legislators have bigger problems to correct to improve the State of Florida.

Passage of a "Caylee law" No Sure Thing in Florida Senate, Palm Beach Post.com, September 19, 2011.