Local Mother Arrested for Stealing at Publix While Leaving Young Son in the Car

A recent News4Jax report gives details into the arrest of Lindsay Pence for Petit Theft and Child Neglect.  St. Johns County Deputies were first dispatched to a Publix parking lot based on a 911 call for an unattended boy in a car.  A review of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office report gives greater details into the criminal episode.

The Deputies located Pence’s six year old son inside of a honda civic, with the vehicle running, and all of the doors unlocked.  Pence exited the store ad came in contact with Deputies at her car.  Pence stated that the child had been crying and “she did not want to deal with the issue inside of the store.”  It is common during child neglect investigations for law enforcement to establish a time line.  How long a child is left unattended is an important fact for the future prosecution cases similar to Mrs. Pence.  To establish how long Mrs. Pence left her six year old son unattended the Deputies simply went inside of Publix to review the security camera footage.

A review of the cameras revealed that Mrs. Pence was inside of Publix for close to thirty minutes.  For thirty minutes, a six year old sat in a motor vehicle alone, with the doors unlocked and the motor running.  At any moment the vehicle could have been stolen, the young child kidnapped, or worse.  It was concerning enough for a passerby, likely another Publix shopper, to alert Law Enforcement to the situation.  Unfortunately for Mrs. Pence, the camera footage also revealed evidence of an additional crime.

While inside of the store Mrs. Pence also committed the crime of Petit Theft, commonly referred to as stealing.  The camera footage showed that Mrs. Pence took out a Publix shopping bag she had  in her possession and placed several items inside of the bag while walking around the store.  Pence then exited the store, past all points of sale without paying for the items.  The total amount of stolen items totaled $33.88.  The items listed as stolen in the Police Report are certainly an unusual combination.  Deodorant, watermelon chunks, salmon sushi, and Kingsford charcoal are all listed as items recovered from Pence.

It is not clear whether Publix would have ever discovered that Pence had stolen from their store if the Deputies had not reviewed the security footage to gather evidence during the child neglect investigation.

The Charges Pence Faces

Pence was arrested for Child Neglect and Petit Theft.  The State Attorney’s Office added an additional count of “Unattended Child in a Motor Vehicle in Excess of Fifteen Minutes.”

Florida State Statute Chapter 827 deals with the abuse of children.  Included in this chapter are the definitions of crimes such as Aggravated Child Abuse, Child Abuse, and Child Neglect.  Neglect of a child is defined as a caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or a caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.

To prove the neglect charge clearly the State of Florida will rely on the 911 caller to describe what the caller saw, the condition of the child, that no one was around, and that it was alarming enough to call 911.  The Deputies would next testify to the time the child was left alone based on the security footage. The Child Neglect charge Pence faces is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in the Florida State Prison.

Florida Theft Crimes

Florida State Statute Chapter 812 deals with Theft crimes.  A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently deprive the other person of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.   The seriousness of the offense is determined by the amount, in dollars, of what is alledged to have been stolen.  If the amount is under $100 the charge is petit theft, a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to sixty days in the county jail.  If the amount is between $100 and $300 the charge is also a petit theft, but tunes into a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail.  If the amount is above $300 the charge is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Pence faces up to sixty days in the St. Johns County Jail based on the amount taken being less than $100, therefore a second degree misdemeanor.

The charge of Unattended Child in a Motor Vehicle in Excess of Fifteen Minutes is governed by Florida State Statute 316.6135.  A review of this statute shows that the State of Florida must prove two elements.  First that Pence was a parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child younger than 6 years of age and left a child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle.  The State then must prove that the period was in excess of fifteen minutes or that for any time period the motor vehicle was running, the health of the child is in danger, or the child appears to be in distress.  The State can easily show that the child was left in the vehicle for more than fifteen minutes as well as the motor was running upon the arrival of Deputies.  Under Florida Law, a violation of Statute 316.6135 is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the county jail.

Pence posted bond totaling $2,000.00 and is due back in court May 4, 2017.

If You or a Loved One are Facing Child Neglect, Child Abuse, or Theft Related Charges

Child Abuse and Child Neglect cases are taken very serious by State Attorneys and Judges.  Often times the Department of Children and Families are immediately involved and the child can be removed from the home.  Not only do people lose their children, they can also lose their freedom and liberty. A theft related charge can haunt you the rest of your life when it comes to future employment or enrolling in school.  It is standard for job applications as well as school applications to include questions regarding prior arrests.  A theft related prior, especially an employee theft, is certainly going to raise red flags during the application process.

Should you, a friend or a family member have the above type of scenario at hand or have a pending warrant for a theft related case, consult with a Jacksonville (Duval), Nassau, Baker, Bradford, St. Johns and Clay County criminal defense attorney. Almost all North Florida attorneys who practice criminal law offer free consultations and jail visits.  The Jacksonville based Forbess Law Firm, has handled countless numbers of theft cases involving grand theft, petit theft, employee theft, schemes to defraud, utterings, worthless checks, all the way from that simple pack of gum up to extremely complex white collar fraud cases involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.  The firm has also handled very detailed child abuse and neglect cases. We are always available to appear in first appearance court to argue for a reasonable bond as well as able to negotiate a surrender on a pending warrant.  We always offer a free consultation and/or jail visit and can be reached at 904-634-0900.


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