Mother of Cristian Fernandez Receives Suspended Sentence and Probation for Negligent Role in Child’s Murder

Circuit Judge James Daniel has sentenced Biannela Susana, 27 year-old mother of Cristian Fernandez, to 10 years in prison. However, the Judge credited her with the two years and four months she’s already served in jail awaiting the consequences and suspended the rest of the sentence to probation. As long as Susana abides by the conditions, she will not have to go to prison for her role in the death of Cristian’s half-brother, 2-year-old David Galarraga. In the mind of the court, Susana has already paid the price for contributing to both children’s fates, with one child dead and the other in juvenile custody for killing him.

Not every mark left on a child resulted from child abuse. Many innocent parents or individuals acting as the temporary guardian of children are caught up in an overly aggressive investigation. The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and investigating detectives are taught to take aggressive action against any parent who disciplined a child leaving a mark anywhere other than the buttocks. Law enforcement often have a difficult time using common sense to tell the difference between discipline and abuse. 12533525.jpg

If one has been charged with domestic violence or child abuse, one should not speak to anyone who may seem to be acting in one’s best interest. Many, including social workers, law enforcement officers or representatives from DCF, while appearing friendly, may actually be gathering evidence against one in an attempt to take one’s children away, especially if one’s children have made the complaint themselves. One should speak to a qualified defense lawyer first before speaking to anyone else about the circumstances surrounding one case. These cases are obviously emotionally charged and require the impartial perspective of an attorney.
There are defenses to child abuse including one defense aptly named “the parental defense.”
The standard jury instructions do provide certain instructions on the issue of corporal punishment, stating that it is not a crime for a parent or a person who is acting as the lawful guardian of a child to impose reasonable physical discipline on a child for misbehavior under the circumstances, even though physical injury resulted from the discipline. Florida law further provides that corporal discipline of a child by a parent or legal custodian for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.

Many times, if one obtains an experienced attorney, one’s attorney will be able to show that the evidence against one is inconclusive to determine one was the cause of child abuse. In this case, the court sided with the defense, finding no conclusive evidence that prompt action or inaction would have saved Galarraga’s life, a deciding factor that led to the court’s allowing Susana to avoid prison and be placed on probation.

Probation is a much more favorable alternative to the many dangers and setbacks of being in prison. One’s attorney may able to secure a probationary sentence in one’s case, many times in the form of a legal supervision program ordered by a court, or a diversionary work program under certain circumstances if one is found guilty of some “eligible” types of crimes or is a remorseful first time offender. If one is put on probation, one will be assigned a Probation Officer who will monitor one’s compliance with the court-ordered conditions and will be notified about the conditions and the term of one’s status in the probation. Community Control is more stringent and strict in that it is a monitored release, typically involving stricter conditions, such as home confinement, electronic monitoring and curfews.

For many, child abuse charges are not properly founded or not fully conclusive, and as a matter of course, the court will place the parent on probation and may require them to take a court-ordered anger management or parental counseling class. Unfortunately, work or family situations sometimes will keep good people from being able to complete conditions of their probation, such as community service hours, in a timely manner. Sometimes, unforseen financial hardships or changes in circumstance, make it difficult to attend court ordered classes or counseling. In these situations, it is important to communicate with one’s probation officer in order to avoid a violation of probation. Many times, the best option is to obtain an experienced Jacksonville probation crimes defense attorney to request a modification of the conditions of one’s probation or by asking the judge for an extension of time in order to complete the conditions of one’s probation.


The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Source: No prison for mother of Cristian Fernandez, The Florida Times-Union