The Locally Owned Voice of the Capital Region

Mother no criminal for leaving child in car unattended

Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Text Size: A | A

It’s hard not to sympathize with the 28-year-old mother who, realizing she’d left her cellphone in the library, covered her 5-month-old daughter up with a blanket, locked her in the car and ran in to retrieve it — only to get cited by police for endangering the welfare of her child when she returned reportedly three minutes later.

Of course any number of tragic events could have ensued as Mom dashed into the library. Someone could have absconded with the child or driven off with her; another car, or an asteroid, could have crashed into the car, causing it to explode.

Ditto the woman herself: As Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy pointed out in a May 2 Gazette story, she might have tripped on the steps on her way in the library, hit her head and fallen unconscious to the pavement.

But as any parent knows, you can worry yourself sick thinking about all the horrendous things that can befall a child. It’s just not a very constructive way to go through life. Better to weigh the prospects of something bad happening and modify behavior accordingly. We suspect that in this case, most people would agree that the chances of disaster striking during those three minutes were minimal.

So the idea of automatically lodging criminal charges against any parent who leaves a child unattended in a motor vehicle — which 19 states do and some legislators want New York to do — seems silly. What makes more sense is New York’s current law, which authorities can use with discretion when a parent blatantly exercises suspect judgment. (In this case, for example, if it had been 90 degrees outside, and leaving the child in a closed car for three minutes would have jeopardized its well-being.)

Indeed, we think police overreacted even charging the woman with a misdemeanor — when a few words of warning would have sufficed. Yes, she was allowed to plead to the lesser, all-purpose violation, disorderly conduct.

But the notion that a parent must keep a child in sight at all times or face arrest seems a bit extreme.

Share story: print print email email facebook facebook reddit reddit


May 6, 2014
6:10 a.m.
+0 votes
reader1 says...

What is the allowable amount of time you can leave a child unattended and out of sight?

If it would be acceptable for one, the it would be acceptable for all. So, would the writer find it acceptable to walk through the Proctor's parking lot and see 3 or 4 children left alone in this manner?

Perhaps the hypothetical scenario of the mother getting injured is unlikely. But, Car break-ins are a fairly typical crime problem.

And, why did she do it - because she didn't feel like going through the effort of taking the child back in with her.

May 6, 2014
7:07 a.m.
+0 votes
rpandori says...

It's unfortunate that we can't always do what other people deem as right, but in this case one has to wonder. A five month old baby is helpless. Although nothing catastrophic happened it could of and very easily. Babies that age tend to spit-up, simply by burping and then in the three minutes that followed could have choked. In this busy world we live in we tend to forget our priorities, common sense doesn't apply. The life of the unprotected should have been the priority, not the cell phone!

May 7, 2014
2:42 p.m.
+0 votes
robbump says...

ALL kinds of things COULD have happened, but in the long run, NOTHING did. That should be the end if the story, rather than concocting "what-ifs". ("What-if" the mom had taken her kid out of the car and dropped it while the parent slipped on the steps? .... see how "what-ifs" can mutate?)
It gets a little tiring of OTHER people telling us how WE should or should not be raising OUR children. If you do/don't want your kids doing something, then direct them to (or not to). I won't correct you -- and meanwhile, you allow me the responsibility to make my decisions too.

May 8, 2014
4 a.m.
+0 votes
reader1 says...

This is not about telling people how to raise their children. It is about placing children at risk, regardless of the duration.

RE: What-ifs - clearly a person accidentally slipping on the steps is not the same as leaving it unattended. And, because the child was left unattended - others had to step in an ensure the safety of the child.

They stop being your decisions when they affect a third party, one unable to protect themselves.

May 8, 2014
6:53 a.m.
+0 votes
wmarincic says...

The bottom line is simple, she put this child at risk because she did not want to be inconvenienced by removing the child from the car seat and carrying the child back into the library. What I will say though is that because this mother was at a library rather than a bar or grocery store. tells me it was probably a one time lack of judgement.

May 8, 2014
11:05 a.m.
+0 votes
joycemadre says...

wmarincic ... I agree whole heartedly!! Everyone has these moments unless you are a saint and I havent ready of anyone being ordained lately. Lets use common sense and not always be on the hunt to condemn for every thing. Lets all try to be more supportive,riding high horses get nowhere. Past generations have not had to live up to such standards, and it seems our quality of our society hasnt gotten better with these standards.


columnists & blogs

Log into

Forgot Password?