NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A decision from New Jersey’s highest court might come as a surprise to many people.
Leaving your children alone in a car is not necessarily a crime.
Just last month cameras captured police breaking a window to rescue a child from a hot car while the mother mother was shopping. That child is okay, but on average 38 children die each year in hot car deaths.
And while that mother is facing charges, in some instances parents who leave their children alone while they shop might not, CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported Friday.
Up until this week it was a pretty cut-and-dry issue — you leave your kid in the car, no matter how long or how hot or cold it is, and you will be arrested.
But now the New Jersey Supreme Court says there may be circumstances where it’s acceptable.
The question sparks great debate.
When asked if there is ever an excuse to leave kids in the car, grandparent Lou Castagno said, “I’m sure there is. There’s always circumstances.”
“No! No. I have no mercy. I’m sorry. I’m a mother of four. I have gone into the store with four kids,” Rose Mason added.
One New Jersey mother has been in a six-year court battle because she left her 19-month-old daughter in the car while she ran into a Dollar Tree store in South Plainfield for five minutes.
The car was running, locked and climate controlled.
But that was no excuse, until now.
Attorney Donny Epstein represented the mother in court. She remains anonymous.
“It was good weather. It was a sleeping child in the backseat of a locked door. The car was right in front of the store where she went. She’s never said that this was a good idea, or a good parenting decision. The question is a one-off, an aberration, should that be viewed as child abuse?” Epstein said.
The mother was in the state’s registry as a child abuser, but now she has the chance to wipe her record clean.
The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in its opinion, “…whether a parent’s conduct is negligent or grossly negligent requires an evaluation of the totality of the circumstances….through a hearing.”
Now that mother will plead her case to a judge and see if her excuse holds weight, although many parents say it doesn’t.
It’s still a long process for the woman to clear her name. She has to go through a hearing with a judge, who will make the final decision if that child abuse label should be erased or remain.