Video of Toddler with Gun in Mouth
Parents Arrested | Child Neglect & Criminal Recklessness
Parents from Evansville, Indiana, are facing charges of criminal recklessness and child neglect after police found a video of their one-year-old child placing a gun in her mouth, which police later identified as a .40-caliber handgun.
According to the report, a man can be heard saying “pow”, and encouraging the child to do the same. Michael Barnes was arrested after attempting to sell a gun to an undercover police officer that he met online, which then led to the discovery of the video on the phone. It is still unclear whether or not police legally obtained the video from the cell phone; according to the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Riley v. California, police need to obtain a warrant to go through the contents of a suspect’s phone.
If the video was illegally obtained, a criminal defense attorney may file a motion to suppress the evidence due to an illegal search or seizure. Assuming there was no error on the police’s part, the video will be used against Michael Barnes during trial, and will be used to determine whether he is fit to be a parent to his child.
The criminal prosecution, which determines whether the individual is guilty of breaking any laws (in this case child neglect and criminal recklessness), takes place separately from the child welfare proceeding, which will determine whether the parents will be allowed to keep custody of their children. Generally, the legal system prefers keeping the biological family together if possible; if the parents are allowed to regain custody of their children, they may have to meet certain requirements mandated by the court.
What is Child Neglect?
Depending on the factors of the case, the person charged with child neglect or abuse may face a variety of penalties if convicted. The most serious cases of neglect will be tried as felonies, while the least serious cases may be charged as gross misdemeanors. Neglect occurs when a child is deprived of, or is allowed to be deprived of, the necessary food, shelter, clothing, or medical treatment to live a healthy life. It is also considered neglect if the child is permitted to live in an environment when such deprivation or environment causes the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired or to be in danger of being significantly impaired. In Michael Barnes’ case, the state will argue that allowing a firearm to be placed into the mouth of a child puts the toddler in significant danger.