Leave your kids in car, face neglect charges

Dray Clark reports from South Plainfield.
January 15, 2014 7:40:37 PM PST
In New Jersey, if you're caught leaving your child in a car while you run into a store you can be legally labeled abusive and neglectful.

"I think there should be a warning may be the first time, but after you're warned you definitely should have some punishment happen to you," a parent said.

A state of appeals of court judge recently upheld the neglect case against a mother who left her 19-month-old in the car sleeping while she shopped for party supplies inside a store at the Middlesex Mall.

She says she was only gone for five minutes, but she was arrested and charged.

The judge says the car could've been stolen or the child abducted making her negligent.

"There's nothing worse than a family who loses their child unjustly and that's the gravest concern with this decision," said Ed Weinstein, a family attorney.

Family attorney Ed Weinstein has successfully defended a client against the same kind of charges.

He says in his case, the judge considered mitigating factors, like the age of the child, how long was the child alone, and if it a dangerous area.

"In this case the judge is not considering these factors anymore," Weinstein said.

But the law is a bit vague, because in New Jersey anyone under the age of 18 is protected under the law. So the question is how young, is too young in this case?

"Is this to say if you left a 14-year-old in the car for 20 minutes that would be neglect or child abuse?" Weinstein said, "This decision is definitely causing confusion in the legal community here in New Jersey."

Shellon Jack says sure the law is vague, but the risk is clear, which is why she doesn't leave her child in the car alone.

"Anything can happen, you never know. You don't want that feeling of regret afterwards where you're just kicking yourself," Jack said.

Some believe it should be handled on a case by case basis if you're caught. But for now, the judge says, no excuses, no leniency, just don't do it.