The women, Brianna Lafoe and Sierrah Newell, were allegedly tossing an infant "like a toy" outside the Coyote Ugly Saloon in Daytona Beach.
Surveillance footage shows Lafoe throwing the baby up and down above her head. Later, she holds the baby while confronting onlookers. Newell allegedly threatened bystanders who attempted to intervene, while Lafoe tried to hit one of them with one of Newell’s crutches. She is also accused of striking a bystander with an open hand.
The baby was taken to Halifax Health. Doctors found red marks on his back and a potentially broken arm.
Witnesses claimed that the women were intoxicated, flipping it upside down over a four-foot distance.
The baby has been released from the hospital, and Florida’s Department of Children and Families is investigating who will take custody.
Florida’s Legal Definition of Child Abuse
According to Florida law, child abuse is any intentional harm or threat of harm to a child’s physical or mental health and well-being. Such acts include, but are not limited to, battery, sexual assault, neglect, and abandonment.
The legal definition also includes exploitation, which involves taking advantage of a child’s vulnerability for personal gain.
Child Abuse Penalties in Florida
This charge is a third-degree felony. The punishment includes up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a fine of $5,000.
Aggravated Child Abuse
This is a first-degree felony in Florida. Florida generally punishes these offenses with up to 30 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
The Reliability of Surveillance Footage
Prosecutors consider surveillance footage a valuable source of evidence. It is easy to convince a jury that something happened if they believe they are directly seeing it.
Such footage, however, does not always provide a full, accurate picture of what happened.
Quality is an issue that makes camera footage unreliable. Surveillance cameras often produce grainy, distorted images. This low resolution makes it difficult to identify perpetrators or other important details.
Additionally, cameras are not always positioned to capture an incident fully. Often, there are gaps in the footage.
Moreover, bad-faith actors can manipulate or tamper with this footage.
It takes more than some questionable camera footage to convict a criminal suspect. Remember, a jury can convict you only when they are 100% convinced of your guilt. If you can present doubt in the images presented, you could beat even allegedly recorded crimes.
Your Right to a Legal Defense
Police and prosecutors often try to convince you that they have you “dead to rights.” They will claim that the evidence against you is indisputable. This tactic is meant to scare you into a confession and a guilty plea.
Even if there is strong evidence against you, you should not neglect your right to a legal defense. Every citizen has the fundamental right to access legal representation, no matter the case. Legal representation helps keep criminal proceedings fair for all citizens.
A skilled attorney can use their skills to challenge any evidence the prosecution offers. They can present alternative interpretations that help sway the verdict in your favor. Never give up your right to a defense, even when the evidence seems overwhelming.
What to Do if You Are Accused of Child Abuse
Collect any evidence that can support your defense, such as witness statements, photographs, videos, or any relevant documentation. You are looking for anything that can prove your innocence or contradict the allegations.
Maintain Open Communication
Stay in regular contact with your attorney, and give them all the necessary information and updates regarding the case. Follow their advice, as they will guide you on how to best navigate the legal process.
Cooperate with Authorities
Doing so may be emotionally challenging, but you should fully cooperate with child protective services and law enforcement. Even when you are innocent, following their orders will help your case later. Be respectful and provide any requested information, but remember to avoid self-incrimination.
Document Your Actions
Keep a detailed record of your interactions with the child in question. Note dates, times, locations, activities, and any other relevant details that can help establish your innocence.
Seek Expert Opinions
Consult with professionals such as psychologists or medical experts who can evaluate the situation objectively. Their expert opinion can help discredit false allegations.
Maintain a Supportive Network
Reach out to friends, family members, or support groups who can provide emotional support during this challenging time. These people can also act as witnesses or character references when needed.
Preserve Electronic Evidence
In today’s digital age, it is important to preserve any electronic evidence that may be relevant to your case, such as emails, text messages, social media posts, or phone records.
Follow Court Procedures
Attend all court hearings and follow any court orders or instructions diligently. Failure to do so could negatively impact your case.
If you’ve been accused of child abuse, The Wiseman Law Firm can help defend you in court. To consult with our team, contact us online or call our office at 407-420-4647.