.She had taken her children for a fun day out at the county fair. But when police saw three of Eve Hibbits’s youngsters in their pushchairs, she was arrested – because they were sunburned.
Now – after more than a week in jail after failing to raise £10,000 bail – she could face a 15-year prison sentence on charges of endangering her children, who have been taken into care.
Last night, her arrest brought protests from civil rights observers and has startled justice officials – who say they have never heard of a similar case.
But Sheriff Fred Abdalla, who put 31-year-old Mrs Hibbits in jail, said he had no doubt he had done the right thing.
‘As soon as I looked at the children, I could tell,’ he said yesterday. ‘It looked like they had been dipped in red paint. It was 95 degrees and they were literally baking. Their skin was blistering.’
Mrs Hibbits had taken four of her children to the fairground in Steubenville, Ohio, to see their father operating an amusement ride.
During the baking hot day, a sheriff’s deputy noticed that the three younger children – a two-year-old girl and ten-month-old twin boys – were distressed and crying.
He radioed in a report to his superiors saying the mother had been walking around for hours and the youngsters looked sick.
Sheriff Abdalla said he went to the fairground and questioned Mrs Hibbits. ‘She seemed kind of slow,’ he added. ‘She didn’t seem aware of sunscreen. I had no choice but to arrest Mrs Hibbits. If I ignore this and something happens, then shame on me.’
He said one of the children had a collapsed lung through excessive crying. He left the fourth child, aged 11, at the fairground while he drove the younger children to a medical centre in Steubenville.
There, the youngsters were treated with cold compresses and released the same day. Medical centre spokesman Keith Murdock said they had second-degree sunburn.
‘Most people who get sunburned get second- degree sunburn,’ he added. ‘It means any sunburn that is beginning to blister. They were blistering. The ones that we usually get here are far worse and include third-degree burns and heatstroke.’
The 11-year-old was later picked up at the fairground, where she was crying because she could not find her parents.
Sheriff Abdalla charged Mrs Hibbits with three felony counts of endangering the children, each of which can carry a five-year jail sentence. He said prosecutors would decide what kind of penalty to seek.
‘Children’s services are going to be involved,’ he added. ‘Whatever happens, the mother has to get the message that something has to be done.’
A lawyer for the local Jefferson County public defender’s department, said: ‘It seems outrageously excessive treatment and ludicrous to threaten a mother with such excessive jail time.
‘That time is more in keeping with rape or bank robbery. Clearly the woman is at fault, but she can be helped by the community services.’
Last night, Mrs Hibbits was expected to be released on bail, after which the case will be sent to a higher court.
South Dakota Cyberstalking Laws
22-19A-1. Stalking as a misdemeanor–Second offense a felony. No person may:
- Willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follow or harass another person;
- Make a credible threat to another person with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of death or great bodily injury; or
- Willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly harass another person by means of any verbal, electronic, digital media, mechanical, telegraphic, or written communication.
A violation of this section constitutes the crime of stalking. Stalking is a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, any second or subsequent conviction occurring within ten years of a prior conviction under this section is a Class 6 felony.
Source: SL 1992, ch 162, § 1; SL 1993, ch 176, § 1; SL 1997, ch 132, § 1; SL 2001, ch 112, § 1; SL 2002, ch 109, § 5; SL 2006, ch 120, § 1.
49-31-31. Threatening or harassing contacts by telephone or other electronic communication device as misdemeanor. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a person to use a telephone or other electronic communication device for any of the following purposes:
- To contact another person with intent to terrorize, intimidate, threaten, harass or annoy such person by using obscene or lewd language or by suggesting a lewd or lascivious act;
- To contact another person with intent to threaten to inflict physical harm or injury to any person or property;
- To contact another person with intent to extort money or other things of value;
- To contact another person with intent to disturb that person by repeated anonymous telephone calls or intentionally failing to replace the receiver or disengage the telephone connection.
It is a Class 1 misdemeanor for a person to knowingly permit a telephone or other electronic communication device under his or her control to be used for a purpose prohibited by this section.
Source: SL 1967, ch 30, § 1; SL 1983, ch 15, § 121; SL 2008, ch 240, § 1.
Nevada Cyberstalking Laws
NRS 200.575 § 3 Stalking: Definitions and Penalties
A person who commits the crime of stalking with the use of an Internet or network site or electronic mail or any other similar means of communication to publish, display or distribute information in a manner that substantially increases the risk of harm or violence to the victim shall be punished for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130
Missouri Cyberstalking Laws
565.090. 1. A person commits the crime of harassment if he or she:
(1) Knowingly communicates a threat to commit any felony to another person and in so doing frightens, intimidates, or causes emotional distress to such other person; or
(2) When communicating with another person, knowingly uses coarse language offensive to one of average sensibility and thereby puts such person in reasonable apprehension of offensive physical contact or harm; or
(3) Knowingly frightens, intimidates, or causes emotional distress to another person by anonymously making a telephone call or any electronic communication; or
(4) Knowingly communicates with another person who is, or who purports to be, seventeen years of age or younger and in so doing and without good cause recklessly frightens, intimidates, or causes emotional distress to such other person; or
(5) Knowingly makes repeated unwanted communication to another person; or
(6) Without good cause engages in any other act with the purpose to frighten, intimidate, or cause emotional distress to another person, cause such person to be frightened, intimidated, or emotionally distressed, and such person’s response to the act is one of a person of average sensibilities considering the age of such person.
2. Harassment is a class A misdemeanor unless:
(1) Committed by a person twenty-one years of age or older against a person seventeen years of age or younger; or
(2) The person has previously pleaded guilty to or been found guilty of a violation of this section, or of any offense committed in violation of any county or municipal ordinance in any state, any state law, any federal law, or any military law which, if committed in this state, would be chargeable or indictable as a violation of any offense listed in this subsection.
In such cases, harassment shall be a class D felony.
3. This section shall not apply to activities of federal, state, county, or municipal law enforcement officers conducting investigations of violation of federal, state, county, or municipal law.
SCS/SBs 70 & 255 – This act prohibits a person from operating an Internet website which causes another person’s computer to dial a telephone number for which a charge is assessed without the other person’s consent. A violation is a Class A misdemeanor unless the long distance charges exceed five hundred dollars, in which case the violation is a Class C felony. The act provides for venue where the victim resides or where the crime occurred. This portion of the act is similar to SB 70.
The act also adds electronic mail messages as a method by which a person may commit the crime of harassment, and prohibits the use of electronic mail to send obscene or indecent commercial messages. This provision is similar to SB 255.