Florida Interference with Custody Law Has Wide Range, Court Says

Florida law includes a number of protections for minor children. That includes a broadly worded statute that makes it a crime to interfere with the custody of a minor. As Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal recently explained, that statute may apply to a wide range of behavior.A defendant was charged with interfering with the custody of a minor, stemming from an incident involving a 14-year-old boy. The boy was riding his bike in his neighborhood when he noticed that the defendant was following him in a car, according to the court. He drove up next to the boy and asked to use his phone, which the boy was holding in his hand.

The defendant continued to follow the boy in the car, including when he turned on to a different street. He pulled closely next to the boy, forcing him to the edge of the street. When the boy stopped and got off his bike, he again asked to use his phone. He said he needed to call a friend and offered to allow the boy to hold some cash while he used the phone. “You can get in and hold the money,” he allegedly told the boy. The defendant eventually drove off when the boy declined. He was later convicted and sentenced to five years of probation.

The defendant appealed the decision, arguing that he didn’t commit a crime by simply asking the boy to use his phone. The Third District disagreed. The court explained that Florida law makes it a third-degree felony to recklessly take or entice any minor or any incompetent person from the custody of the minor’s or incompetent person’s parent. It also said it agreed with prosecutors that the law applied to situations like this, “where a stranger attempts to get a minor into his car by offering him money.”

Custody means more than simply being in physical control of a child, the court explained. Custody also includes “other responsibilities relating to the protection, supervision, welfare, and care of a child.”

As a result, the court said the defendant interfered with the boy’s parents’ custody over the child when he tried to entice the boy into the car. It affirmed his conviction.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney. The prosecution needs to prove each element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, and there are often defenses of which you may not be aware. Tampa criminal defense lawyer Will Hanlon is a seasoned attorney who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (813) 228-7095 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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