On Tuesday, police in Baton Rouge arrested a 22-year-old woman who accidentally allowed her 11-month-old daughter to drown in a bathtub. According to authorities, she left the child unattended in the tub with the water running. She has apparently been charged with negligent homicide.
By the woman’s own account, she left the bathroom and began speaking with other people in her home, got distracted and forgot about her daughter. After several minutes, she remembered leaving her daughter alone in the tub and found her unresponsive. The infant later died at a local medical center.
Police were called to the scene later that night to investigate the drowning, and ended up arresting the mother on suspicion of negligent homicide.
Negligent homicide, in Louisiana, involves either killing another person by criminal negligence or, in either recklessness or criminal negligence, failing to restrain an animal that kills another person.
In order to sustain charges of criminal negligence, prosecutors have to prove that the defendant broke a law. The charge itself can result in up to five years in prison, unless the victim is under 10 years of age, in which case the charge can result in two to five years in prison without chance of parole or suspension.
In this case, the woman’s decision to leave her daughter unattended in the bathtub may or may not have been a violation of a law. Regardless of what one feels about the defendant’s parenting behaviors or decisions, charges must fit the crime. Mistakes happen, and tragedy can result. That doesn’t necessarily mean a crime took place.
Source: The Advocate, “Mother booked in infant’s drowning,” Kimberly Vetter, May 31, 2012