Area of Law:
Death that occurs during the commission of a felony is first-degree murder. This is the case even if the death is accidental, meaning the perpetrators had no intention to kill someone while in the process of committing a separate crime. Authorities in Weber County have booked 31-year-old Raquel Borce on second-degree child abuse and one count of attempting to purchase drugs after she allegedly fed her four-year-old daughter so much alcohol that she nearly died. Both criminal charges are felonies. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that doctors are amazed the child, who has cerebral palsy, managed to survive.
Borce turned herself in to authorities last Wednesday and is free on $15,000 bail. She reportedly invoked her right to remain silent and has already secured defense counsel. Prosecutors have not levied formal charges against the woman and an investigation remains ongoing. The child is staying with her biological father and doctors expect her to recover fully.
Theories of Authorities and Criminal Charges
Authorities made statements to media outlets claiming that it’s “not possible” the child could have consumed that much alcohol on her own without the mother’s assistance. Well, they would they say that wouldn’t they? I mean what prosecutor or police officer is going to get in front of a bunch of microphones and say, “We think there’s reasonable doubt here already.” The duty of the state is to bring the strongest case they can against the person they believe committed a particular crime. That strategy doesn’t usually include doing the defendant’s criminal defense team a massive favor.
Reasonable doubt is at the heart of criminal trials. All the defendant’s team must do is make a compelling case to a jury that it’s reasonable to believe that their client did not commit the acts they’re accused of committing. While a sheriff’s deputy might claim that there’s no possible way a four-year-old could consume large amounts of alcohol, it has little bearing on what a jury might decide. We’ve seen no evidence in this case, heard no formal arguments before a judge. The law requires that we reserve judgment until it’s appropriate.
Proving Criminal Intent is Sometimes Irrelevant
Culpability in more serious criminal offenses is often irrelevant in cases where death has occurred. Under normal circumstances, the state may weigh the intent to commit criminal acts along with the outcomes of incidents in levying charges. When death is involved, all bets are usually off. That the child survived her ordeal is miraculous for both this little girl’s continued development and the penalties facing the mother. Child abuse is a second-degree felony, but it’s not a first-degree murder charge, and that distinction alone sheds decades off a potential sentence should a jury convict her in this matter.
About the Author
Darwin Overson is a Salt Lake criminal attorney. If you or someone you love has been charged with a crime, you need immediate legal support to uphold your rights. We make prison and jailhouse visits and are available to take your phone calls 24 hours a day.