Four women were arrested for Felony Retail Theft on Sauturday at a Macy's in Boyton Beach and one of them was also charged with child neglect. Nineteen-year-old Ariel Grimes was charged with child neglect because she brought her four-month-old baby with her while shoplifting, concealing some of the stolen goods inside the baby carriage.
A person can be charged with a felony offense for shoplifting, even if they have no prior record, if the amount stolen exceeds $300. This isn't a very high threshhold, especially in an age where prices are increasingly rising. Now, a person could be facing a felony charge for stealing a scarf, if it's taken from a high end department store.
But the bigger issue with the Grimes case is the child neglect charge. Child neglect is also a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Child neglect is defined under Florida law as failing to provide a child with care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health. This includes not providing a child with food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services.
By bringing her four-month-old child with her to steal, was Grimes actually committing child neglect? Was she failing to provide the child with care? Perhaps. But, to be child neglect, she has to fail to provide care necessary to maintain the child's physical and mental health. Can a four-month-old really be physically or mentally damaged by his mother walking out of a department store without paying for some merchandise on the bottom of the baby carriage? Highly doubtful.
All too often, police are quick to arrest a person for child neglect or child abuse for committing a crime while their child is with them, even a non-violent crime such as retail theft. This is not what the child protection laws were established to do. They are meant to protect children from danger and harm - not a parent who walks out of a store without paying for something.
The police were far-reaching when they arrested Grimes on the child neglect charge and it is likely that such a charge won't stick when it comes time for prosecutors to decide what charges to file against Grimes.