Patterico's Pontifications

6/7/2014

Is Leaving Your Child in a Car a Crime?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 3:31 pm

Interesting article by a woman who ran to the store with her four-year-old to grab a pair of headphones for a long plane flight. When she got there, he threw a tantrum because he wanted to stay in the car. She describes what happened next:

I took a deep breath. I looked at the clock. For the next four or five seconds, I did what it sometimes seems I’ve been doing every minute of every day since having children, a constant, never-ending risk-benefit analysis. I noted that it was a mild, overcast, 50-degree day. I noted how close the parking spot was to the front door, and that there were a few other cars nearby. I visualized how quickly, unencumbered by a tantrumming 4-year-old, I would be, running into the store, grabbing a pair of child headphones. And then I did something I’d never done before. I left him. I told him I’d be right back. I cracked the windows and child-locked the doors and double-clicked my keys so that the car alarm was set. And then I left him in the car for about five minutes.

He didn’t die. He wasn’t kidnapped or assaulted or forgotten or dragged across state lines by a carjacker. When I returned to the car, he was still playing his game, smiling, or more likely smirking at having gotten what he wanted from his spineless mama. I tossed the headphones onto the passenger seat and put the keys in the ignition.

Over the past two years, I’ve replayed this moment in my mind again and again, approaching the car, getting in, looking in the rearview mirror, pulling away. I replay it, trying to uncover something in the recollection I hadn’t noticed at the time. A voice. A face. Sometimes I feel like I can hear something. A woman? A man? “Bye now.” Something. But I can’t be sure.

We flew home. My husband was waiting for us beside the baggage claim with this terrible look on his face. “Call your mom,” he said.

I called her, and she was crying. When she’d arrived home from driving us to the airport, there was a police car in her driveway.

It turns out that a citizen had happened upon her car with the child while she was in the store, and called the police. The mother ultimately was prosecuted for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” She reached a deal whereby her prosecution would be deferred, and if she completed 100 hours of community service and parenting classes, the case would be dismissed.

However, the episode has now made her son fearful of being left alone even while she goes out front to grab the paper off the lawn — not because he is scared of being hurt, but because he is scared that the police will come.

My wife used to wander the Kentucky countryside on her bicycle for hours. I would ride my bike down at the schoolyard. My friends and I would stalk neighborhoods at night, play on construction sites during the day, crawl through sewer drains and climb trees and do all sorts of things out on our own that parents would never allow these days.

It’s not an easy issue. There comes a time when a parents’ actions may be irresponsible. But doesn’t it seem that we have become far too overprotective compared to the way it was when we were children?

93 Responses to “Is Leaving Your Child in a Car a Crime?”

  1. we live in a country what does not place high value on human freedom

    unless you’re an islamic terrorist sympathizer

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  2. government knows best…

    and they want a zero defect environment.

    i also think the prosecutor was stretching with the charges. either that or the legislature (surprise) wrote a ridiculously lax and vague law that is being abused.

    redc1c4 (abd49e)

  3. I also feel that the mother didn’t want to do the hard part of parenting, which would mean taking the child into the store with her, and making it behave. I see a lot of parents avoiding the heavy lifting these days. I also feel sorry for kids who travel around in SUVs watching DVDs in the seat back and missing the whole big world out there.

    Gazzer (d67463)

  4. Yes, I think it is a crime to leave your child out of your sight in a store’s parking lot. You’re rolling the dice that a sicko will not happen to be prowling around there. Or a couple of twelve-year old girls who want to please Slender Man.

    nk (dbc370)

  5. Geez. Leaving your kid in a car on a not-hot day should not be a crime. The police shouldn’t have charged her with anything. They should have charged the person who called with criminal busybodying.

    MayBee (846936)

  6. The “concerned citizen” was so concerned that he or she didn’t wait around to ensure the safety of the child, he/she just called the cops then left. No way the police should have pursued the matter once they had spoken to the mom, but we’re not allowed to use common sense in matters of law any longer.

    JVW (0b23c9)

  7. Anyway, the answer is in the story. The kid was spotted in the car alone, by the guy who called the cops, mommie dearest was oblivious to that event, and she drove away before the cops had time to show up. That it was a Good Samaritan and not a Hollywood director was just a matter of odds.

    nk (dbc370)

  8. It’s definitely a crime in Australia. We’ve had too many fatalities from kids being left in cars while stupid parents go play poker machines or absent-mindedly shop. I suppose it depends on your climate.

    Craig Mc (b890e3)

  9. This is absolutely the mother’s fault.

    She should have made them prosecute her, made them taken the matter to trial, and demanded a jury. Then she should have gotten an attorney (one could be found who would take the case pro bono, I guarantee) who would go out to the media and make a stink.

    Then when they swiftly dropped the charges out of embarrassment, she should have demanded a factual finding of innocence, and perhaps sued for malicious prosecution and see if she couldn’t get a settlement deal out of THEM.

    By basically copping a plea to avoid facing this sort of banal evil head on, she’s contributing to the problem.

    Michael E. Lopez (c44c25)

  10. I’ve often wondered how my brother and I survived all these active dangers.

    We rode our bikes to school, without helmets.

    We went out in the neighborhood to play, climbed in hills, went fishing and sailing, all without even telling our parents where we were going (“Out to play” .. “Be back before dark.” And we were).

    We lived at the beach at times, and stayed out in the sun all summer without sunscreen (which was pretty much zinc oxide back then). By the end of the summer we had great tans.

    At school, we played baseball with real baseballs and real bats, climbed jungle gyms, and basically behaved like boys.

    We had cap guns and BB guns and learned to shoot real guns (although that was indeed supervised). No one worried about toy guns, even though they looked a lot like real guns, which were in most households, too.

    We went trick-or-treating alone at the age of 6 and so did everyone else. We were told not to take any apples, though.

    We really should have died.

    Kevin M (b357ee)

  11. They should have charged the person who called with criminal busybodying.

    Or a false police report. What did harm did she allege?

    Kevin M (b357ee)

  12. I suppose it depends on your climate.

    And how far the nanny state has progressed.

    Kevin M (b357ee)

  13. My twelve-year old is in Stockholm, Sweden, right now. She was in Spain for her spring break. She’s been surfing at Waikiki when she was nine and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef when she was ten. There’s letting your kids stretch her wings, and there’s being a lazy, stupid, negligent and self-indulgent Walmart mom.

    nk (dbc370)

  14. How far can a kid be from a parent?

    Is it child abuse to leave your child in a school full of complete strangers on the first day of kindergarten/first grade (asks a home schooling parent)?

    Metal box with glass windows on a cool day 50′ away–Vs home+windows 50′ away taking out the trash?

    http://www.childdeathreview.org/nationalchildmortalitydata.htm

    More than likely, the child was at greater risk (statistically) if the car was being driven vs parked at the store.

    But being a fertilized egg/born is 4x more dangerous (from natural causes) that being inside a moving vehicle. Is having a child “child abuse”?

    Who “owns” the kid (the right to control/discipline)? It is becoming more and more the government. Nanny State USA.

    Selected Causes of Death, Ages 0-19, per 100,000 Population (2007)
    Cause Number of Deaths Mortality Rate
    Natural 36,272 44.1
    Perinatal Conditions 14,570 17.7
    Congenital Anomalies 6,896 8.4
    Neoplasms 2,302 2.8
    Respiratory Disease 1,442 1.8
    Circulatory Disease 1,666 2.0
    Nervous System Disease 1,609 2.0
    SIDS 2,453 3.0

    Unintentional Injury 11,560 14.0
    Motor Vehicle 6,683 8.1
    Drowning 1,056 1.3
    Fire/Burn 544 0.7
    Poisoning 972 1.2
    Suffocation/Strangulation 1,263 1.5
    Firearm 138 0.2

    Homicide 3,345 4.1
    Firearm 2,186 2.7

    Suicide 1,665 2.0
    Firearm 683 0.8
    Suffocation/Strangulation 739 0.9
    Poisoning 133 0.2

    BfC (8661e2)

  15. And then there’s this:

    “However, the episode has now made her son fearful of being left alone even while she goes out front to grab the paper off the lawn — not because he is scared of being hurt, but because he is scared that the police will come.”

    How on Earth would a four-year old even be aware of all this, unless the parents frightened him with the story (and the police) to get him to do what mommy says from now on? Trash! To hell with her, I feel sorry for the kid.

    nk (dbc370)

  16. 0-19? Cut us some slack, please.

    nk (dbc370)

  17. We played with mercury on the counter of science lab. Dissected real (dead) frogs. Hunted, with rifles, shotguns, and bow (recurve, not compound) and arrows. And slingshots made from rubber tubing. We learned how to drive on farm tractors without roll bars, lights, radios, or air conditioning. We were licensed to do so — and drive the cars, pickups, and other motorized equipment as well — at the age of twelve.

    We set off firecrackers, built rockets with chemical fuels we mixed ourselves, ground mirrors for our own telescopes, and x-rayed our feet with a home-made x-ray machine. (Scientific American’s The Amateur Scientist was almost as interesting as Playboy.)

    Rode our bikes home from the library with no hands — because our hands were holding the book we were reading.

    htom (412a17)

  18. And slingshots made from rubber tubing.

    Rich kid, eh? My slingshot was from strips cut from a tire inner tube.

    nk (dbc370)

  19. I think it’s an unnecessary crime. If the child (or children) are damaged, the adult can surely be charged with the normal child endangerment laws. Or threatened with such charges, to get their attention. These laws always seem to follow some case where a child was killed by being abandoned in a closed auto and essentially baked to death. “We must DO SOMETHING!” screams the outraged mob, “think of the children!” The legislature and governor, with their usual thought process, caves in, allowing a hard case to make a bad law.

    htom (412a17)

  20. nk — poor kid. One of the guys was a doctor’s son, we had some good supplies.

    htom (412a17)

  21. I never felt leaving them in the car was worth the risk. That being said, I managed to survive iron-willed child number two throw a tantrum in every store in town. My dignity may have taken a hit, but we all survived, including other customers. However, I will say it was not easy pushing a cart through the store doing the necessary shopping while attempting to manage an obstinate and tenacious two year old. But that’s why it’s called parenting. And it certainly isn’t for wusses.

    Dana (9a8f57)

  22. I can remember being left in the car when I was young, usually had a book or something to keep me busy. windows were left cracked to left air.

    I think part of the problem is that parents have left babies in their cars with the windows fully rolled up and the child died. o

    of course of a lot of is the nanny state that we now live in. Has Hilary’s “it takes a village” come to fruition?

    Peterk (c985d4)

  23. While I didn’t agree with the mom’s decision, I agree wholeheartedly with this about parenting – it is indeed a

    constant, never-ending risk-benefit analysis

    A vulnerable and defenseless individual is counting on you for that. Always.

    Dana (9a8f57)

  24. Jaysus, when my siblings, cousins and I were growing up in Anaheim, CA. we used to ride our Schwinn Stingray bikes up Carbon Canyon to the country club our families belonged to that was located in LA county. After a day of swimming and playing, we’d turn right around and ride home. Little did I know that probably constituted child abuse.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  25. Col. Haiku,

    My sibs and I did likewise – bicycled everywhere, checked in at lunch and back home before dark during the summer. No one worried. However, the child in the story was just 4 years old. Hardly able to pedal away on his Schwinn if need be.

    Dana (9a8f57)

  26. OK, other data (sorry, pie charts only for 1-4 age, 2007), Death rates:

    http://www.hrsa.gov/healthit/images/mchb_child_mortality_pub.pdf

    34% unintentional injury
    12% birth defects
    8% homicide
    8% cancer
    4% heart disease
    2% the flue and related

    Still in single digits for all homicide related deaths of 1-4 year olds.

    Just saying that making bad laws/reports of “crimes” vs real life statistics–Not a good way to address problems.

    Yes, kids die in cars from heat (and other unattended issues)–But that happens in homes, schools, walking, riding bikes, etc…

    By all means, throw the book at somebody that leaves their kids in a hot car for 2 hours while in a crack house… But the absolute of a law–Not what I would want.

    BfC (8661e2)

  27. Re :25… He’ll, Dana, if the 4 yr old was anything like me, he’d already found the spare key and was sneaking out after mom and dad were asleep and taking the Ford Ranchero out joyriding.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  28. nk (dbc370) — 6/7/2014 @ 4:32 pm

    As I read the article, she said they hadn’t really talked about it in front of the child, but he was old enough and obviously there was enough time spent with laywers, and then with the community service and parenting education, and probably some discussions between the parents which they didn’t realize he had overheard, that he put two and two together.

    I’ve heard other similar stories, especially when the parent is arrested in front of the child. I got a lecture once by a town cop because I had to get milk one winter evening on the way back from day care so I parked right in front of the minimart door where I could see the car the entire 3 minutes I was in the store. I was informed that I could have been charged with child endangerment and/or neglect. I asked how taking a sleeping infant out into well below freezing weather with heavy snow was safer for the child, and the cop just shrugged his shoulders and said it wasn’t, but that was the law.

    I’ve also had a fellow girl-scout troop parent look like she was going to call DCF on me because I sat in the Border’s Café at the front of the store on Saturday mornings while my 6 and 9 year olds took part in the morning kids’ program. I got a lecture on how she never let her daughter go any place alone, and she even had a phone with a GPS (this was 10 years ago). That the staff knew me and my children quite well at that point, and the girls knew not to go with anyone, even their grandmother, without checking with me first, and knew how to go limp and scream bloody murder if anyone else tried to take them didn’t matter. Obviously someone was going to snatch them as they walked to meet me in the front of the store.

    As many others have said, it’s a wonder any of us survived to even have children, looking at how different and laissez faire our own childhoods were. I think the real problem is not that the world is more dangerous, but that we get our news from a much wider area now. It seems almost every time a child is kidnapped, or shot anywhere in the country, every single news station picks it up. When I was growing up you’d never have heard about something happening to a kid two states over. And of course there are just more people in most local news areas now then there were 40 years ago, so even if the incidence rate per 100K children is the same or less than then, you hear about so many more of those incidents and the world seems much more unsafe.

    LibraryGryffon (1996ab)

  29. “Progress” is the hypertechnical application of law presuming to supercede parental judgment of relative risks. Leaving her child in a locked car for a very short period of time on a cool overcast morning was less dangerous than driving with him in the car, yet the former action is subject to criminal penalties – even though stranger abduction has less than a 1/100,000 chance of occurrence. There was probably even a higher risk of being inside the store during a violent robbery.

    David (6f3506)

  30. I think the real problem is not that the world is more dangerous, but that we get our news from a much wider area now.

    I think the bigger problem is the increasing death of common sense.

    Of course, it’s possible that the people in the public sector (ie, law enforcement, the judiciary, etc) who are major players in stories such as this one — about the mother who ran into the store for a few minutes — are generally ideologically, politically balanced or sensible. But I have a sneaking suspicion they’re not.

    I’d be interested in knowing the voting history and philosophical patterns of such people. I’m prepared to discover they’re mainstream conservatives, but I also wouldn’t be surprised in the least if they’re typical of squishy sheeple anywhere and everywhere. The ones who emote: “We must do everything possible to protect innocent children left in cars and also helpless little household pets like Fido and Kitty—and prevent the perils of climate change too!! Oh, and while I don’t think bakers should be legally forced to cater to all customers, they do need to be much nicer to the ones who want same-sex wedding cakes!”).

    Mark (99b8fd)

  31. I knew a young couple who called 911 because the mom over in aisle 2 was leaving her baby unattended while she darted into adjacent aisles to get groceries… they told me the story with the self righteous air of someone who has birthed their first child less than a year ago. I just said really? Then they noted I must not have children blah blah blah
    I also have a friend who has birthed five kids that watched over the first two like a hawk, but kids 3,4,5? She listened… she probably left her kids in the car while running in to buy potatoes many a time, (who has the time and energy to hustle up 5 kids just to run in and buy a root crop) but she never would have left the kids in the car while doing something like playing video poker or drinking in the bar.

    Officials of various stripes like to find categories for actionable behavior and are not going to give a rats ass if you are in the next aisle or the video poker lounge.. the rules say:

    steveg (794291)

  32. 3. I also feel that the mother didn’t want to do the hard part of parenting, which would mean taking the child into the store with her, and making it behave.

    Gazzer (d67463) — 6/7/2014 @ 4:00 pm

    Gazzer, maybe you didn’t get the memo but anything she did to make the kid behave inside the store would also be a crime.

    Everything is a crime. Including this ridiculous story. The cops showed up and the car was gone. So no, the minor didn’t need services. They should have just dropped it.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  33. htom (412a17) — 6/7/2014 @ 4:42 pm

    These laws always seem to follow some case where a child was killed by being abandoned in a closed auto and essentially baked to death. “We must DO SOMETHING!” screams the outraged mob, “think of the children!” The legislature and governor, with their usual thought process, caves in, allowing a hard case to make a bad law.

    I don’t even think this is a new law.

    This is justa new definition of negligence – and I guess the prosecutor thought negligence wouldn’t apply or didn’t have a high enough penelty so he made it “contributing to the delinquency of a minor!

    She got the plea deal because this wasn’t really solid law.

    Sammy Finkelman (8ab807)

  34. 28. …I got a lecture once by a town cop because I had to get milk one winter evening on the way back from day care so I parked right in front of the minimart door where I could see the car the entire 3 minutes I was in the store. I was informed that I could have been charged with child endangerment and/or neglect. I asked how taking a sleeping infant out into well below freezing weather with heavy snow was safer for the child, and the cop just shrugged his shoulders and said it wasn’t, but that was the law.

    LibraryGryffon (1996ab) — 6/7/2014 @ 5:09 pm

    Pretty soon it will be illegal to get out of the car to fill it with gas. You are leaving the kids alone in the car, after all. I have no idea what your town cop thinks could happen to sleaping infant in one case as opposed to the other. In both cases, you’re only seconds away from the car door.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  35. The illegals down in Phoenix always bring all their kids into the store. Not unusual to see 4 or 5 hanging off the cart while mamá feeds them all that “free” stuff before they get to the checkout with a carton of milk. Great country America.

    Gazzer (d67463)

  36. steveg (794291) — 6/7/2014 @ 7:22 pm

    I’ve only got the one, myself, so that’s why I never even thought about it until this post.

    As for the law, we don’t install stairway handrails for the benefit of 16-year old gymnasts, and we don’t have child welfare laws because of good parents.

    nk (dbc370)

  37. And then there is the mother who leaves the infant in the car seat while she runs into the store on the way to childcare, leaving the motor running (it was hot: AC; it was cold: heat) and some yout walks by and decides to drive the rest of the way to continuation school…. and, viola!, you have the kidnapping of the child.

    A major search begins, Amber Alerts are issued… and maybe even a pursuit before it is all over. The kid who yielded to the temptation of the unattended, running vehicle is on the way to the big-house and nothing but sympathy and positive tweets for the stupid mother. Should anyone from the police publicly admit to even considering charging the mother with the endangerment offense, they are ridiculed far and wide.

    Gramps, the original (c15c43)

  38. 29. ..There was probably even a higher risk of being inside the store during a violent robbery.
    David (6f3506) — 6/7/2014 @ 6:30 pm

    Which is why I wanted to know why it isn’t illegal to leave your children in the car while you fill up with gas.

    http://www.myfoxphilly.com/story/25413429/surveillance-video

    Surveillance Video Released of Carjacking in Glenwood Gas Station

    If it’s freezing out and you leave your children in warm, locked car when you dash into a mini-mart to get milk, there are all sorts of dangers you’re not exposing them to. Such as the freezing weather, slipping on the ice, getting hit by a car that’s slipping on the ice, or a robbery.

    But people do get their cars jacked when they stop at a filling station. And if the kids are in the car, especially if they’re asleep, they’re going with the carjacker.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  39. Gramps, it’s possible to imagine all kinds of scenarios.

    But I can show you the surveillance tapes of car jackings at gas pumps.

    Did you make sure you took your children with you when you got out of the car to fill it up? If not, why wasn’t that equally child endangerment as parking where you can see the car the entire 3 minutes you’re in the mini-mart?

    Steve57 (61329d)

  40. “Is it child abuse to leave your child in a school full of complete strangers on the first day of kindergarten/first grade (asks a home schooling parent)?”

    When I was in kindergarten, I walked to school and crossed a busy street on the way. My mother had a neighbor boy walk with me the first day. The second day, a nun scolded me for something I no longer remember. The third day, I was not quite to the school when I heard the bell ring. I thought, “Oh god that nun is going to whack me with her ruler.” I walked to a florist shop next door to the school that was owned by some friends of my father. They were used to seeing me and I helped the old uncle in the nursery until I heard the school bell ring at noon. I told him I had to go and walked home. No one called and my mother was none the wiser. The next day, I didn’t go to school but went to the nursery again and helped until noon.

    I never went back to school that year and was saved by the fact that my parents bought a house and we moved in November. There is no way I could have continued the charade in winter.

    My mother never knew until I told her about 30 years later. So much for over protective parents. My kids walked to school in Orange County until it was too far. They hover over their kids like helicopter parents.

    When I started first grade at the new school the following year I was like a little wild animal. I walked to first grade, though.

    Mike K (cd7278)

  41. Of course putting a child from Honduras into the hands of smugglers where the risk of death is probably greater than from the gangs there (although people may not realize that) is not considered a form of child neglect.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/04/world/americas/wave-of-minors-on-their-own-rush-to-cross-southwest-border.html

    As more of those children were released from federal shelters and the number placed with parents or in foster care soared, other parents noticed.

    If it were considered child neglect, well, they’d really have a problem!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/08/us/child-migrants-strain-makeshift-arizona-shelter.html

    That’s only the children who can’t be placed.

    Child endangerment is strictly limited to certain stereotypical situations, mainly parked cars, or maybe being overweight.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/world/europe/in-britain-childs-weight-leads-to-parents-arrest.html?hpw&rref=health

    Sammy Finkelman (8ab807)

  42. If you are talking about Illegals from Latin America, yes, they do bring the entire extended bleeping family into the store. Hispanic comedians make jokes about it.
    Not that they are not pragmatic enough to leave the kids in the car if that alternative looks enticing …
    I see both all the time… inside the car, kids playing around, hitting each other, screaming, laughing and then inside the store… ditto. Cousins, uncles, aunts, brothers sisters and neighbors all running amok.
    This is a thought on white privilege: how come do I think a white mom gets in trouble for leaving kids in the car, while the illegal mom gets sympathy?
    Because I have seen it play out in the local news… evidently white moms are supposed to know better than to leave their kids contained within a vehicle regardless to shade, locked doors, and partly opened windows… even if they were left in the car safely enough themselves as kids

    steveg (794291)

  43. A bureaucrat (whether a cop, a city planner or a pencil pusher at the DMV, etc) harassing a woman for leaving her child in a car the way the person in this report did makes me think of all those bureaucrats throughout the land who foist ridiculous regulations upon businesses, particularly egregious in the case of ADA laws.

    I know of one story where the trash bin area in the back of a store had to be made wheelchair accessible based upon the assumption that handicapped employees would need to carry and unload a garbage can into such trash bins in the first place.

    Mark (99b8fd)

  44. Not child abuse, according to our betters in the government.

    http://ponderingprinciples.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/elian-gonzalez.gif

    Leaving a child alone in a car for any amount of time under any weather conditions? According to our betters in the government, child abuse.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  45. steveg, targetting white people isn’t profiling. That’s the key.

    If you arrest an illegal immigrant mom for endangering her kids, that’s profiling. We all know that deep down that the cops only arrested her for her illegal status. Kind of like being against Obamacare can only be due to racism.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  46. @39– Mr 57, I imagined nothing.
    I believe that the phrase goes something like this: “.. you can’t make this s**t up…”

    When you re-read my original comment please give special attention to the words “motor running”; I’m sure I included that information. It is not an isolated event, over time, and I recall one that was even double-parked. And yes, in CA it is a vehicle code violation to leave a vehicle unattended with the motor running… The abject stupidity of the government dependent urban dweller is beyond the normal person’s comprehension.

    Gramps, the original (c15c43)

  47. This is just the sound of freedom being crushed.

    Kevin M (b357ee)

  48. Gramps @46, yes, I noticed that part about leaving the keys in the ignition and the engine running. I’ve never heard of that, but no matter what we imagine could happen, I have no doubt the truth can be stramger. People can do incredibly stupid things.

    Like the lady who decided to remove a wart from her foot with a .410 shotgun, but only after she drank a quart of vodka. Truth is stranger than fiction.

    My point was that our legal system, like our educational system, has become a form of systemized abuse. What we have here is a form of “zero tolerance” policy. I have no idea why I shouldn’t be able to run into a 7-11 to pick up milk for the kid sleeping in the back seat on a cool day, when I’ll only be out of the car for a couple of minutes. But I can leave the kid in the car and fill up the tank.

    In neither case would the engine be running.

    We can all recall things that we used to be able to do that the bureaucrats would be horrified by today, and have therefore convinced themselves to make illegal. Because, imagination!

    I recall going on a field trip for an elementary school science class to explore tidal pools, and items we were to bring included sturdy hiking boots and as an added option a sheath knife.

    Doubly amazing thing; they just assumed enough of us had sheath knives available to us it was worthwhile to mention bringing it along. I had to borrow my older brother’s.

    Can you imagine a school asking you to bring a knife of any sort to school these days?

    And, amazingly, nobody went berserk at the sight or availability of those knives. Nobody got killed or even cut. Although we probably did commit what would today be serious environmental crimes had the same laws that exist now existed back then, what with exploring the tidal pools.

    Yes, it’s bad to leave your keys in your ignition, enginge running, and double park with your kid in the car. And it’s bad to leave your kid in the car and go into the convenience store and play video poker for a few hours on a 90 degree day. But is it really bad to lock yor doors and leave the kid in the car on a nice cool day and run in and get one thing from the store? Then be back within minutes? No, it’s not.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  49. We are just arrogant and stupid enough to expect we can manage outcomes. Until this belief fades, there is no hope for our country.

    Ed from SFV (3400a5)

  50. I was left in the car a thousand times when I was a child and it didn’t effect me, effect me, effect me…..

    Peter (1d4db1)

  51. Truth is too many busybodies. I went in the store to get dog food and left my dog in the car. Came out to a police officer, it was sixty degrees out and windows open. People are just assholes.

    Tessa (866a85)

  52. Years ago leaving a kid in the car wasn’t unusual at all, walking through any sizeable parking lot encountering a few examples of such scenes was completely unremarkable, a normal everyday occurrence. Kids routinely waited unattended in cars even when outside temperatures made them temporarily uncomfortable, they simply endured it. If temperatures approached dangerous levels the reaction of passersby might evoke some tsk-tsking, but little else unless conditions were clearly life threatening.

    Today, it’s an entirely different story. Our generation might have been left waiting in cars but we can’t do that to our children, it may sometimes be attractively convenient but it’s not a safe, and predators are on the lookout to commit crimes of opportunity. So, forget the past, recognize times have changed, and act accordingly.

    ropelight (1f1b9d)

  53. The biggest irony about stories like this one is that they’re set against a backdrop of a society that exhibits symptoms of dysfunction and mediocrity that are greater today than ever before. A nation where a do-your-own-thang ethos has been increasingly popularized over the past 50 years. Where people in the workplace are emblazoned with and legally coddled for tattoos and metal-tongue studs, where the “undocumented” are happily running the border, where the US military accommodates a Nidal Hasan while a US honor guard was recently required to march in DC’s Gay Pride parade, where public schools have teachers who are philosophically just a bit — a bit — more mature than the children, etc.

    Mark (99b8fd)

  54. 1. Blame litigious people who demand that someone be found at fault for any and all injury or insult
    2. Blame lawyers who are willing to twist the language and the law to allow them them to win
    3. Blame the court system for not making loser pays for any civil lawsuit. (tort reform)
    4. Blame the FedGov and LocGov who love to tell people what they can or cannot do as that allows them
    more power and the ability to fine those who violate those laws.
    5. Blame an adversarial attitude on the part of prosecutors who file charges at the drop of a hat because they can. (looks good on the CV when those lucrative judgeships are parceled out.

    jakee308 (f1b953)

  55. It’s not an easy issue. There comes a time when a parents’ actions may be irresponsible. But doesn’t it seem that we have become far too overprotective compared to the way it was when we were children?

    Your question and the comments provide the real problem at issue: what is the definition of “child abuse” and, more importantly, why is the definition of “child abuse” what it is? Some of the folks here think the mother is completely wrong and afraid to do the “heavy lifting” of parenting while others think that the person who phoned in the incident should be charged for doing so.

    No, it’s not an easy issue but if it is deemed important enough to the populace for such behavior to carry the force of law, it is the function of the legal system to enforce the law. If the legislature has enacted a statute that offends enough of the public, then the legislature can change the law or be voted out of office. That’s the way the republic works.

    Thus, your question contains its own answer by virtue of how the current law defines child abuse (or “contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”) If you think that the law does not take into account certain aspects of potential circumstances that might be applicable in the enforcement of the statute then change the statute by better defining the crime or repeal the law.

    Just bear in mind that whatever form the law takes in our republic, it is never a statute that agreed upon by 100% of the people. Rather, it is tolerable by a majority. Thus, ultimately, the virtue of the populace can be measured by their acceptance of a common standard of morality — whatever that may be.

    J.P. (bd0246)

  56. We’ve come a long way since people crossed from Saint Joe to The Coast along the various Trails in Conestoga Wagons.
    Technology has taken a great leap forward, society has regressed.

    askeptic (8ecc78)

  57. Does anyone realize that most drug addicts are guilty of income tax evasion (money gained by stealing and other crime is legally income) but almost never prosecuted for it?

    Sammy Finkelman (8ab807)

  58. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/05/14/nyregion/toddler-left-outside-restaurant-is-returned-to-her-mother.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/1999/12/15/nyregion/danish-mother-s-claim-of-false-arrest-is-rejected.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar

    This was over 15 years ago?

    At least, 15 years ago, there was no prosecution.

    Follow-up or general overview, inthe year 2000:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/09/nyregion/letting-go.html?pagewanted=all

    ”There is no law,” said Rose Firestein, senior litigation counsel for Children’s Rights, a law firm in New York that litigates foster care and child welfare cases. ”There is no rigid standard. But if somebody goes and finds a kid under 6 alone, if nobody shows up fairly soon, that kid will be removed.”

    Upon investigation, the child may be returned to the family if a parent can show that the event does not occur regularly and the child was not in danger. But those decisions can seem arbitrary, based on the judgment of, as Ms. Firestein put it, ”a caseworker who may have a bachelor’s degree in something that has nothing to do with child development.”

    Inside the welfare bureaucracy, Ms. Fire- stein said, attitudes toward parents shift radically from keeping families together at all costs to ”if in doubt, pull them out,” depending on the current political climate.

    Sammy Finkelman (8ab807)

  59. Steve57 (61329d) — 6/7/2014 @ 8:31 pm

    I just wanted to add, that in my case, I did not leave the keys in the car. The child was bundled up, and the car was already warmed up, so the interior temperature wasn’t going to drop into the negative in the few minutes it took to grab the milk and pay at the register. I never leave my car unlocked anyplace, unless my husband or one of my now essentially adult children are staying in it. As you say, too many people are going to view an unlocked car, and especially one with the keys in the ignition, as an invitation to car theft. I have never understood folks who leave their car running while they go into a store.

    LibraryGryffon (1996ab)

  60. @49– Mr 57, you continue to miss my point. Since I do not necessarily disagree with much of what you say and see that its a fine line between going into the store and standing at the back fender pumping gas, but there is a line there, for at the fender you are in the *presence* of your crumb-cruncher; you can see what is happening and your presence will deter a large majority of those who might otherwise want to mess with your kid. You do not give that appearance from inside the store.

    My point with the motor running scenario is that people who do those kind of things that actually put their child in jeopardy reap sympathy from the public (“she must have been really scared when she found her car and child gone….”) where the 3-minute hop into the store, with the child safely asleep in a locked and otherwise secured car get someone tossed into the grinding wheels of the justice system. In the original scenario, I still am having a time getting a good idea of what happened with the “long plane flight” going home to find that the police had already gone to the mother’s home…. it sounds like they involved a lot of different people for something they really had no evidence to support, but maybe its in the way the woman wrote the story.

    Gramps, the original (c15c43)

  61. nk, its obvious that you know better.

    SPQR (11b954)

  62. “Be home by dinnertime.”

    Growing up in a large family I enjoyed lots of independence. It was a great gift! We got to decide who we were and what we wanted to be.

    These days, kids are building their resumes from grade school on.

    Patricia (be0117)

  63. 60. …The child was bundled up, and the car was already warmed up, so the interior temperature wasn’t going to drop into the negative in the few minutes it took to grab the milk and pay at the register.

    LibraryGryffon (1996ab) — 6/8/2014 @ 11:50 am

    No, it wouldn’t. Not in 3 minutes. Not in 30 minutes (I’m just making a point about the interior temp of the car; that isn’t a child care tip).

    In fact if you’re ever stuck in the snow and the vehicle is the only shelter you’re aware of, as in a survival situation on a mountain road, instead of keeping the engine on constantly you should only run the heater 10 minutes per hour. The vehicle will stay adequately warm and your fuel will last longer.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  64. These days, kids are building their resumes from grade school on.

    These days, some of them are coming to real job interviews with their parents. And are offended if Mommy and Daddy can’t be with them during the interview.

    htom (412a17)

  65. Note to Gto: Many sophisticated alarm/locking systems allow the car to be left running for heating/air-conditioning purposes, and with the key removed and doors locked. I have retrofitted locking systems onto cars that allow the starting of the car remotely without unlocking the doors. If you leave the controls for the heater/ac set to operate, the car will be nice a warm/cool when you’re ready to get in.
    Electronics are both a wonder, and a curse.

    askeptic (8ecc78)

  66. Gramps @61, I get your point.

    I suppose I’ll take it one step further. Now that summer is on us we’ll be hearing tragic stories of parents forgetting to drop their kids off on morning at daycare, and only discovering to their horror the kid has roasted to death in their car when they leave work at 5pm.

    It appears to me that usually those people don’t get prosecuted. Yet as you point out they will prosecute people who didn’t actually endanger their child. As in LibraryGriffon’s example where she could see the car the entire time, and the child was of course better off asleep in the warm, locked car then out in freezing, snowy weather.

    But I was also making a point that everything is a trade-off.

    Sometimes your presence at the car will act as a deterrent. Such as against thieves looking to rob cars for any visible valuables in parking lots.

    Some crimes on the other hand can only take place when you are in or near your car, like a carjacking.

    And in many places, like Detroit, many car thieves actually target gas stations for just that reason. There are so many security devices on cars they don’t have the skills to just steal them anymore. And moving vehicles are a difficult target (in Detroit a lot of women will just run red lights at night rather than stop). But at a gas station the carjackers know the person with the keys is at the car and will be there long enough for them to move in a pull a gun. So to these guys your presence isn’t a deterrent but an invitation.

    Getting back to people who forget their kids in their car all day while they’re at work, and avoiding any speculation about their parenting skills, that’s another example of a trade-off. Back when I was growing up “day-care” meant my mom was going to drop me off with my grandmother if she had errands or an appointment. But it’s very difficult to forget your child in the car when your child is in the front passenger seat. Of course, you can’t put your child in the front seat anymore because of airbags. In fact, it’s illegal in some states to put a child under a certain age or weight in the front seat. Because, thanks to the safety nazis, we have explosive devices in our dashboards that are lethal to children (and small adults). So kids have to ride in the back seat to get them out of the blast radius.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  67. there are no longer any circumstances what prevail in our pitiful little country in which americans in positions of authority can be trusted to act with common sense

    it is good to keep this in mind as you go through your day

    happyfeet (8ce051)

  68. Leaving children in the car in Phoenix in the summer is deadly.

    http://ktar.com/22/1734259/Arizona-dad-pleads-guilty-in-death-of-son-left-in-hot-car

    slp (347e33)

  69. Thanks for the heads up, slp. Now we know.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  70. slp, just proves that the entire state needs to be placed under an air-conditioned dome./s
    Unfortunately, that father was not isolated from society before he could breed. I hope there aren’t anymore of his genes floating about.
    This is what the Nanny-State/Society begets us, people who under no circumstances should survive childhood and pass on their defective genes. When life was ‘more dangerous’, less of this happened.

    askeptic (8ecc78)

  71. The law notwithstanding, I didn’t and wouldn’t.
    Some years ago, a mom left her kid in the car–motor running, while she dashed into a convenience store.
    Some mook got into the car and took off. Discovering the kid, he tried to throw the kid out. Kid got tangled in the seatbelt and was dragged to death. Other motorists boxed the guy in and stopped him, presumably throwing a blanket over the remains of the kid and remarkably not killing the thief.
    So, law notwithstanding, it’s a dumb idea. In this case, the guy didn’t want the kid, he wanted the car, and there’s no reason to leave it running. Too much trouble to turn it on or something?

    Richard Aubrey (0605ef)

  72. Look out, Richard, you’re in danger of being blackballed from the He-Man-American Oregon Trail Pioneers Club.

    nk (dbc370)

  73. I would not have left a 4-year old in the car under any circumstances, especially not as a de facto reward for a tantrum. The tantrum would require a spanking and that’s why the police would have visited me.

    Amphipolis (e01538)

  74. I was left in the car a thousand times when I was a child and it didn’t effect me, effect me, effect me…..

    Peter (1d4db1) — 6/8/2014 @ 5:30 am

    Same here, same here, same here…

    Tanny O'Haley (c0a74e)

  75. But in the good old days, Amphipolis, the four-year old would have been hitching the oxen to the Conestoga, while the three-year old was casting bullets for the rifles, and the five-year old would have been skinning out the buffalo he’d shot and dragged into camp. Dragged into camp afoot over three miles of prairie.

    nk (dbc370)

  76. Way way back in the ’60s, my Mom would leave me and my brothers in the car. In Houston, Texas. In the summer. Usually not for long, but we didn’t care. We would roll down the windows (that was something you could do at the time), open the doors and run around in the parking lot or in other stores until she came back. I think at one point she finally said we were a curse, not a blessing. Of course, we didn’t have car seats or seat belts at the time.

    Regardless, leaving any child in a car today is a crime. They can’t get out and they can’t roll down the windows or open the doors.

    And don’t get me wrong, seat belts and car seats are great things. I can attest to that.

    By the way, Mom learned to not leave us in the car. Having three boys does that to you.

    Ag80 (eb6ffa)

  77. You’re a good German, nk. It’s good to know that you’d expose your kid to raging downpour for no other reason than you fear arrest from unthinking, unreasonable authorities if you don’t

    Heanven forbid you just let your kid stay in the car for a couple of minutes and keep dry.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  78. When I was divorced in 1996, I was given primary physical custody of our 3 children. My ex-wife got with some quack doctor who determined that my 9 year old son needed to be put on Ritalin because he was:

    1. Overly friendly.
    2. Cleared his throat a lot because of allergies.
    3. Though he received straight A’s in math, missed one math sequencing question.

    I took him to see a family psychologist, the school psychologist, the school psychiatrist, and 2 medical doctors, all of whom said my son did not need Ritalin. Yet the family services representative called me at work after I had with doctor supervision taken my son off Ritalin, screamed at me over the phone that if I didn’t put him back on Ritalin, that she would take my 3 children from me.

    She would not listen to me, she would not listen to facts, she would not let me speak to her supervisor. I finally told her to call my attorney and in the future all correspondence should go through my attorney. I did not have an attorney, but she fell for it and did not contact me again.

    I believe that a lot of bureaucrats are bullies who have not one shred of common sense. That’s why they believe that 1 or 2 whacks on a child’s bottom for purposes of discipline is the same as burning a child’s feet with a lit cigarette. That leaving a child in a car in line of sight for 3 minutes is the same as child abuse.

    My step-father beating me into unconsciousness when I was 9 was child abuse! God gave us a brain, use it. On the other hand, this mother should not have let her bratty child dictate whether he should go in the store or stay in the car. While not child abuse, what if there was danger? You don’t want a 4 year old demanding their way when you need to move them out of danger.

    I don’t think she should have been charged, and for the safety of her child, she should have better control of her child.

    Tanny O'Haley (c0a74e)

  79. 77. …Regardless, leaving any child in a car today is a crime. They can’t get out and they can’t roll down the windows or open the doors.

    Ag80 (eb6ffa) — 6/8/2014 @ 7:48 pm

    Cars are a much greater danger to children these days because we’ve made them so much safer.

    Steve57 (61329d)

  80. Guys, I’m convinced. I was wrong. I unjustly maligned the lady. She was not “a lazy, stupid, negligent and self-indulgent Walmart mom” like I called her before, and I apologize for saying it. She was a true daughter of the American Revolution, striking a blow for freedom and good old American self-reliance, against an oppressive, fascist nanny-state, and giving a much-needed boost to the collective testosterone level of feminized 21st century America.

    nk (dbc370)

  81. They are indeed safer when moving. That’s why you don’t leave them in the car when they are parked. This is an interesting discussion, though.

    As a conservative, I think that rules and regulations regarding safety in regards to cars have been successful. Believe me, and you know it as well as I do, cars are much safer today than when I was a kid. Regardless, is the government the proper authority to make cars safer? I would have to say yes, but I am not immune to arguments otherwise.

    Also, I watched NASCAR and F1 races today that involved crashes that would have killed the drivers just 10 years ago. Technology and innovation have made race cars incredibly safe.

    So, where is the bearing point? What would make your car as safe as a NASCAR or F1 car? Is that a government job or a market job?

    Ag80 (eb6ffa)

  82. I note that the mother in the original post was sentenced to, among other things, “parenting classes.”

    Having seen the sort of people that work for social-service agencies — dysfunctional bums, all — I can’t imagine what they could possibly teach anyone about parenting, or anything else for that matter.

    Fun fact: in 51 states and 3 territories, people think their state’s child-welfare or child-services office is the worst. And they’re all probably right.

    Kevin R.C. O'Brien (fdaea7)

  83. nk @81, the topic of the thread is, “Is Leaving Your Child in a Car a Crime?”

    It isn’t, “Is Kim Brooks Who Wrote an Article for Salon Mother of the Year?”

    Steve57 (61329d)

  84. And it’s not a question to be answered in a vacuum, or by appeal to libertarian ideals, or even by images of Dennis the Menace and Leave it to Beaver; but in the context of modern-day urban shopping center America.

    nk (dbc370)

  85. Ag80 (eb6ffa) — 6/8/2014 @ 8:24 pm

    None of us, unless we’re Warren or Bill, can afford to buy a NASCARized ‘safe car’, let alone one built to F-1 standards. I further doubt if more than three people in the DOT is qualified to inspect one, and everyone would have to be inspected before every ‘event’ (aka, drive to Walmart).

    askeptic (8ecc78)

  86. …more….
    But, if the Nanny’s get their way, and ban the private ownership of cars,
    and force us all into Public Transportation, the problem will be solved.
    All of us would leave our kids in a car operated by the TSA, right?

    askeptic (8ecc78)

  87. It’s great to find out that our esteemed host’s lovely wife is from Kentucky, where we have the prettiest girls, who grow up into becoming the best women! :) I grew up in Mt Sterling, in Montgomery County, 35 miles east of Lexington.

    And yeah, I rode my bike all over, too, just like all the other kids. Without a helmet, even!

    The Dana who grew up in the Bluegrass State (3e4784)

  88. “Leaving children in the car in Phoenix in the summer is deadly.”

    If that doesn’t rate wearing pink undaroos and eating moldy green bologna sammiches, I don’t know what does. Harrrrump!

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  89. (sigh)
    1. She is a lousy parent if she can’t control a four year old.
    2. It was stupid to have left a four year old alone in a car (so she could buy headphones no less!).
    3. I can’t blame whoever called the police because the child could have been at risk.
    4. Since the police apparently didn’t arrive until after she left, how was she even prosecuted?
    5. It is idiotic that the police did any more than check to make sure everything was ok.

    A final thought: Four years before this happened she could have gone to a “doctor” and asked him to shove scissors in her unborn child’s head because she didn’t want him, but leaving him alone for a few minutes can’t be tolerated by our society.

    Mark Johnson (05b23f)

  90. No, leaving a kiddo in the car on a cool day is not a crime, does not “render the child in need of services”. This country.

    Of course, she is a terrible parent but not for that. She was afraid of his tantruming. (In fact, it was the whole point of the shopping excursion – getting him new headphones for the airplane ride, as much for her convenience as his. She didn’t intend on actually interacting with the kid the whole trip or expecting him to behave, without audio distraction.) She didn’t leave him behind when she had the option and needed unencumbered shopping. And she left him in the car because she thought he might fuss if his wishes were interupted and he was taken in the store. She didn’t say NO.

    SarahW (267b14)

  91. Mark, if I did not meet my parents standards for public or social behavior at any event when out among society, it was buck up and shape up or go sit in the car.

    SarahW (267b14)

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