Ana Cecilia Pazmino was arrested for child neglect in Boca Raton, Florida last week. According to news reports, a security guard allegedly found her three children locked in a Toyota minivan by themselves and without any adult supervision. It is also claimed that the van’s keys were left in the ignition, the doors were locked and the sunroof was open. When the security guard asked Pazmino’s 5 year old daughter where her parents were, she said mom was getting her hair cut at a salon. Pazmino’s 3 year old son and 10 month old baby girl were also allegedly left in the car. (Photo Credit: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office)
When Ana Pazmino returned to the minivan 20 minutes later, police claim she had no response when asked why she left these young children alone. It should be noted, that these are just allegations and Pazmino is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Given the fact that these allegations concern three children, prosecutors may charge Pazmino with three counts of child neglect. Each charge is a third degree felony and carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in Florida State Prison. Thus, Ana Pazmino’s maximum prison exposure is 15 years in Florida State Prison. In the alternative, her judge may sentence her to 5 years on probation, per count. If sentenced consecutively, Pazmino could be placed on probation for a maximum of 15 years.
In a case like this, her judge will likely consider a “split sentence.” In a split sentence, a criminal defendant is sentenced to a combination of prison and probation, so long as the total time served on both does not exceed the maximum allowed by law for either.
For example, if Pazmino were sentenced to 5 years in prison, the judge could only give her a maximum of 10 years on probation.
Whether Pazmino goes to prison or gets probation will likely hinge heavily on two factors. First, does she have a criminal history? If she is a first time offender, a criminal defense lawyer may be able to get her a lengthy term of probation that includes intensive counseling and child care education instead of prison time.
If Pazmino does have a criminal history, then she will likely be sentenced to the minimum prison term allowed by the Florida Sentencing Guidelines for persons with a criminal history. Most importantly, if Pazmino has a history that relates in any way to child abuse or child neglect, her judge will certainly punish her more heavily since this new case would constitute a repeat offense of a specific crime.
As one can imagine, judges typically sentence repeat offenders to harsher sanctions than they do first time offenders.
When analyzing the seriousness of Pazmino’s case, I think the overriding mitigating factor is that, thankfully, nothing bad happened to the children. Had the children been injured, abducted, or caused injury to another, the seriousness of this case would be far greater. Luckily, Ana Pazmino’s alleged negligent conduct was interrupted before anything bad could happen.
On the other hand, a judge will rightfully wonder what Pazmino was thinking.
This leads me to the second factor. Namely, does Pazmino suffer from a mental illness? Is she legally competent to stand trial? Does she have a history of mental health problems? Has she ever been Baker Acted before? Does she have a history of bi-polar disorder, psychosis, or schizophrenia?
These are serious questions that must be asked and answered before any criminal defense lawyer can embark on a legal strategy for Pazmino’s defense.
If I were her defense lawyer, I would immediately send Pazmino for a psychological evaluation. It is clear to me that Pazmino likely suffers from some kind of mental deficiency because she obviously didn’t think anything negative about leaving her kids alone in a car while she got her hair styled.
At the same time, the fact that she locked the doors, opened the sunroof, and left a movie playing, shows she thought her actions out with intelligence of some sort. This level of planning may negate any conclusion that Pazmino is incompetent.
Regardless, a lot of work will need to be done on her case before her criminal defense lawyer, or any other person for that matter, can draw concrete conclusions.
Hopefully, Pazmino and her family will take these charges very seriously and retain a defense lawyer as soon as possible. When it comes to children, the courts have little tolerance for abuse and neglect. This legal tradition is a good one and helps protect children, but it should be wielded wisely and appropriately.
Determining what type and degree of punishment is appropriate in this case will likely weigh heavily on the outcome of any psychological evaluation conducted. Based on the facts presented in the news, it does not sound like Ana Pazmino has a reasonable likelihood of success were she to challenge her guilt and take this case to trial.
Again, before any real conclusions may be drawn, much more information is needed. Hopefully, this case will have a happy ending for the children involved. Personally, I think such an outcome would include a punishment where the children are not separated from their mom, but where Pazmino is given extensive counseling, parenting education, and is supervised on probation at least until the children get a little older and can supervise themselves.