Saturday, March 20, 2010

What is the value of a single word?

Last week, I found myself sitting across from several legal folks who know much more about the law than I do.

I had asked for this meeting in order to better understand why the driver of the vehicle in which Heavenlee had been improperly secured in was immune to more serious charges resulting from the accident of Dec. 13, 2009 in which our beloved granddaughter was critically inured.

This is what current Indiana Law states:

The Indiana law of Neglect of a Dependent is the criminal law equivalent of Child Endangerment/Reckless Endangerment. One of the subsections of that law reads “A person having the care of a dependent, whether assumed voluntarily or because of a legal obligation, who knowingly or intentionally (1) places the dependent in a situation that endangers (my emphasis) the dependent’s life or health, commits neglect of a dependent, a Class D felony.”

Since the accident was not the driver of Heavenlee's vehicles' fault, and due to the fact that the driver had attempted to secure Heavenlee in a standard seat-belt restraint, even though this was not the proper action, it was an attempt to secure her safety and therefor did NOT "knowingly or intentionally (1) places the dependent in a situation that endangers (my emphasis) the dependent’s life or health."

The only other law that is relevant to this issue is that of Criminal Recklessness. It reads “a person who recklessly commits an act that inflicts serious bodily injury upon another person commits criminal recklessness, a Class D felony.”

Again, the conduct by Heavenlee’s driver of that car did not inflict the injury upon her. So this charge would not apply to the driver.

It comes down to this...

The actions of the driver did not cause Heavenlee's injuries. Her injuries were the result of the driver's actions, not the cause.

It all comes down to a single word... Cause or Result.

This difference is reflected in the fact that the driver face only a $25.00 fine rather than more serious charges.

That is the value of a single word!

The law, as it now reads, depends on actions which cause injuries to a dependent, rather than actions which result in injuries to a dependent.

As such, a single word now places us in the position of having to address that missing word and update the current law in order to reflect our concern for child safety.

We now focus our attentions on developing new legislation which will require more stringent punishments for offenders where injuries to dependents occur as a result of non-compliance with the law.

Again, we ask that each of you reading this please contact the following state senators and representatives and convey to them your opinion about this matter.

Senator Timothy Skinner(D)
District #: 038 Staff Contact: Brent Stinson
Phone: 800-382-9467
200 W. Washington St
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Representative Clyde Kersey(D)
District #: 043 Staff Contact: Christina Cesnik
Phone: 800-382-9842
200 W. Washington St
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Please refer to this specific posting when addressing your concerns to them.

Thank you and God bless each one of you.

James & Amanda Wallace

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