Sheriff's Office explains when versus when not to charge someone

News 12 at 6 o'clock/Friday, August 30, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It's an age-old adage -- "accidents happen." That's exactly what investigators say happened when a two-year-old child leaves the play area and falls into a fountain at the Augusta Mall.

"Really an unfortunate accident is what it is. You can't persecute someone over an accident. There is literally no contributing factors," explained Sgt. Shane McDaniel.

The surveillance video shows it takes just a few seconds for the two-year-old to walk out of the play area and end up in the water.

Thanks to some quick-thinking bystanders, the child was revived. The mother will not be charged. But, after several drowning incidents in 2012 where a guardian is charged with deprivation of a minor and even involuntary manslaughter after a child drowns in a family pool, News 12 had to ask: "In this case, what's the difference?"

"In this particular case, there was no malicious intent. There was no negligence on the mother's part," McDaniel said.

Mall surveillance video shows the mother following her child around the play area until, for a moment's notice, she turns her back to go sit down. The video then skips to ten seconds later, showing the toddler running out of the play area and straight for the fountain.

Sgt. Shane McDaniel says it takes looking at everything, the situation as a whole, to determine when to charge someone.

"What the investigators are going to look for is some kind of malicious intent or negligence based on the parent's part. If the parent does not have any kind of a criminal history, have a history of substance abuse," he said.

In this case, McDaniel says the video speaks for itself.

"She showed genuine care. She was concerned. She was in panic mode, which is normal for a mom looking for her child. Sometimes accidents happen, and we're there, emergency services are there. Good-hearted people are there to help out, and in the end, that's the main thing," he said.

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