Is Leaving a Child Unattended for 5 minutes Abuse or Neglect? In NJ, Judge Rules Yes.

kid in car w 300x168 Is Leaving a Child Unattended for 5 minutes Abuse or Neglect? In NJ, Judge Rules Yes.

Recently, a New Jersey state appeals court held that leaving a young child alone in a vehicle — even briefly — is abuse or neglect.  The Court ruled against a mother who left her toddler strapped in a car seat while she shopped.

The case originated when a woman left her car running with her sleeping 19-month-old inside for five to 10 minutes while she shopped for party supplies.  By the time she returned to the vehicle, the police had arrived and the mother of four was arrested.

Judge Clarkson Fisher Jr. wrote the opinion, holding that, “a parent invites substantial peril when leaving a child of such tender years alone in a motor vehicle that is out of the parent’s sight, no matter how briefly,” Judge Fisher cited the risk of “car theft or kidnapping” and the possibility that “on a hot day, the temperature inside a motor vehicle can quickly spike to dangerously high levels, just as it may rapidly and precipitously dip on a cold night.” In its decision, the court ruled it’s neglect when a parent is aware of a dangerous situation and doesn’t “adequately” supervise the child or “recklessly creates a risk of serious injury.

The ruling, which can be applied to similar cases from now on, does not specify the age at which it no longer becomes negligent to leave a child in a car. Anyone under 18 is protected by the state child abuse law, but Fisher’s ruling also speaks of the “tender” age of Eleanor’s child.

Notably, the law takes into account the reason the child was left alone. A parent who leaves a sick child unattended while running into a store for medication for that child may be viewed more favorably than a parent who left a child alone for another reason. Here, the judges found there was no emergency to justify leaving the child in the car because “Eleanor was only purchasing items for a party, and other adults were available to watch the child at home while Eleanor ran her errand.”

If you need experienced legal representation, Stern Law will effectively defend your legal rights. Contact Stern Law today for a free consultation at 856-685-7600.


Comments are closed.