Mom Ducks Into Library for 3 Mins, is Charged with “Endangering” Child Waiting in Car

Readers — Sometimes I tweet these smaller stories, which allows me to get them out to the public without writing a whole post. But since I worry not everyone who reads the blog sees my tweets, from time to time I am going to start putting little items here without much comment. I just want them to be seen. I think you can guess how I feel about this crime blotter item from upstate New York. (I have removed the mom’s name):

J. B., 28…was charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, in connection with an alleged incident that occurred outside the Saratoga Springs Public Library shortly before 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon.

Police said the woman left her five-month-old daughter unattended in her vehicle for approximately three minutes. B. had re-entered the library to receive her cell phone, according to court documents. The child was left unsecured in an infant carrier and was completely covered with a light blanket, police said. Members of Saratoga County’s Child Protective Services were contacted and responded to assess the situation. The child was unharmed by the incident. B. was released on her own recognizance. Regulations vary from state-to-state regarding the legality of children being left unattended in a vehicle.  

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34 Responses to Mom Ducks Into Library for 3 Mins, is Charged with “Endangering” Child Waiting in Car

  1. SKL April 24, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    So maddening. Exactly what “danger” was this child in while her mom ran into the building to retrieve her cell phone? Presumably at 5mos she could not bust out of the car and walk into traffic. In 3 minutes she could not possibly overheat and expire. It takes more than 3 minutes to drown, for Pete’s sake.

    It seems to me the only real danger is having someone sic the cops on parents.

    Mean people. Stupid mean people.

  2. J.T. Wenting April 25, 2014 at 12:17 am #

    “Felony not being a helicopter parent”. “Felony independent thinking”.

  3. Sandi April 25, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    There are no words.

  4. Sandi April 25, 2014 at 1:22 am #

    So now I’m thinking about how this could be any different than leaving a sleeping 5 month old in the nursery while I take a shower or walk out to the mailbox. Will these actions be illegal next? Crazy.

  5. SOA April 25, 2014 at 6:57 am #

    If it was literally just three mins then how did anyone even have time to call the cops or have the cops arrive?

  6. BL April 25, 2014 at 7:33 am #

    “If it was literally just three mins then how did anyone even have time to call the cops or have the cops arrive?”

    I was wondering the same thing. People who call to report prowlers or even a home invasion in progress are lucky to get same-day response.

  7. MichaelF April 25, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    “If it was literally just three mins then how did anyone even have time to call the cops or have the cops arrive?”

    Wondering the same thing since it would take about that long to dial 911 and start screaming child endangerment to the operator. And how did they know the approximate time, was someone timing it? So many questions on such a stupid situation.

  8. Donna April 25, 2014 at 8:09 am #

    SOA & BL – Maybe nobody had to call. My local library is patrolled by the police and there is frequently a cop car in the parking lot when we go. I would think nothing of leaving the kid in the car to run in to grab a cell phone even with a cop car in the parking lot. I’d be much more worried about the cell phone being stolen in the library than I would be something happening to my baby in the car while I got it.

  9. lollipoplover April 25, 2014 at 8:16 am #

    And why couldn’t the concerned citizen just wait by the car to make sure baby was OK? Why call the police?

    In European countries, babies left unattended in prams outside libraries and shops to get fresh air is a sign of good parenting. How sad our country is to call the police and charge this as crime.

  10. Michelle April 25, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    My local library is right next to the sheriff’s office and courthouse. A cop could easily watch me put the baby in the car and run back into the library, and know exactly how long I was gone.

    I find this article very disturbing, because I am a little helicopter-y when it comes to infants (and I don’t think leaving the baby unbuckled was a great idea, as a 5mo can roll over and may manage to fall out of the carseat), yet even I would think it was OK to quickly run in to grab my cell phone. I mean, 3 minutes? Really? I leave my daughter unattended (in her bouncy seat, or her bed) longer than that just going to the bathroom!

  11. anonymous mom April 25, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    It’s possible the police were driving by. Police drive by our local libraries relatively often.

    I rarely leave my kids in the car unattended, but I did twice yesterday. We were headed to their music class, and I had to stop for a prescription at CVS first. I got everybody out of the car, we all went in, and I realized I’d left my money at home. So I got them all back in the car, went back home, got my money, and went back. We were already late for class, so that time I left the 2 and 4 year olds in the car with their 9 year old brother, and was out in about five minutes.

    Then, after their class, we went to a playground, and my 4yo realized she had to use the bathroom RIGHT THAT MOMENT right as we were about to leave. My car was halfway between the playground entrance and bathroom building (maybe 30 feet from each), so rather than drag the two boys into a nasty public women’s restroom (which my 9yo would have thrown a fit about anyway), I sent my oldest back to the car with his little brother and took my daughter to the bathroom. The boys were both fine when we got back.

    I checked my state laws just now, and they are kind of vague:

    “A person who is responsible for the care or welfare of a 
    child shall not leave that child unattended in a vehicle for a period of time that poses an unreasonable risk of harm or 
    injury to the child or under circumstances that pose an 
    unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the child.”

    It specifies that “child” refers here to a child under 6, and that “unattended” means not supervised by somebody 13 or older. It’s just the “period of time that poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury” that is vague. What does that mean? I’m very confident that the 10 minutes or so I was in the pharmacy and the 5 minutes I was in the bathroom were not posing an unreasonable risk of harm or injury, especially on a 52 degree day. But, what if an overzealous passerby or police officer or CPS worker thinks that ANY time unattended poses an unreasonable risk?

    When our ideas of risk, especially regarding children, are so inherently unreasonable, laws that are based on the reasonableness of risk seem increasingly problematic.

  12. anonymous mom April 25, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    “So now I’m thinking about how this could be any different than leaving a sleeping 5 month old in the nursery while I take a shower or walk out to the mailbox. Will these actions be illegal next? Crazy.”

    @Sandi, not quite the same, but when I was in the hospital after I had my youngest, I went to take a shower the morning after he was born. I called the nurses to see if they’d take him to the nursery–that’s what they’d done with my other two when I’d wanted to shower–and they told me they didn’t do that anymore. So, I left him in his little rolling bassinet in the main room of my hospital room, and I went into the attached private bathroom, with the door ajar. I left the door to my room open a crack, in case the nurses needed to come in to do any checks.

    A nurse did come in, and I was very sternly told that I was under NO CIRCUMSTANCES to leave my baby unattended, even if I was taking a shower. Instead, I was supposed to roll his bassinet in with me and lock the door.

    WTF? I mean, what is the point of all of their insane security–cameras everywhere, total lockdown of the ward (my oldest wanted to take his baby brother out to see the fish in the lobby, and that was absolutely prohibited, even if I went with them), identification tags on every limb–if I have to have the baby in my sight at every moment anyway? And what kind of postpartum rest is a new mom supposed to get if she can’t send the baby out to the nursery for a few hours but also can’t even let the baby out of her sight, even for a 10 minute shower?

    As you can tell, I was extremely frustrated. I don’t think that 10 minutes with my newborn right outside a partway open door was going to harm him, and I enjoyed my shower much more without him being right in the room (and my worrying about splashing him, waking him, etc.).

  13. SOA April 25, 2014 at 8:50 am #

    Anonymous Mom: I feel your pain. I think labor and delivery nurses are just bitchy about that. I had a similar issue. When I was in recovery after having the twins and a c section after the first 24 hours when I was allowed to get up I was told by the nurse to get up and go for a walk around the ward and take a shower. It was just my husband and I in the room at the time. So I called for them to come get the twins to keep in the nursery a bit.

    The nurse came down and was rude to me and was like “Again?” in a rude tone. I said “Well you told me I had to shower and go for a walk and there is no way my husband is capable of helping me walk and push two baby bassinets at once and he has to help me shower too.” I mean I was just doing what they TOLD me to do and then she gave me attitude about it?! I gave it right back. Good thing my husband was not trying to push two baby bassinets around the hospital when I went walking because some kid was running up and down the halls and almost plowed right into me which would have knocked me over and opened up my incision most likely. He had to literally jump in front of me to guard him from hitting into me.

  14. SteveS April 25, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    Asinine. Police and prosecutors have discretion. While I can understand that there are laws in place to discourage behavior that is unacceptably risky, I just don’t see the wisdom of charging a person under these circumstances (short amount of time + no actual harm).

  15. Warren April 25, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    SOA,BL and MichealF

    Did the three of you just skip over the part where the POLICE said it was three minutes? I think if they were going to lie or embelish it would have been reported as a longer period of time………..don’t ya think?

  16. Gary April 25, 2014 at 9:28 am #

    @anon mom: “I checked my state laws just now, and they are kind of vague:”

    ‘course theya re, how else do you expect them to getcha!!!

    Oh look, my state…

    AND in the comments you got a shout out Lenore!! :-)

  17. J- April 25, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    I took a look through all those laws. Most states seemed to have a some bit of reason to them, with acceptable wait times of 10 to 15 minutes.

    I grew up in Florida, and so a couple of times every summer there would be the local news story of some baby who died, left in the back of a car in a parking lot for some length of time. Given that, I’m not against “unattended child in a car” laws, but I believe that most parents are reasonable and can be trusted run a quick errand with a kid in a car, and these laws seem to have that kind of provision built in.

    Yes, I am aware that there are some people who freak out at the sight of an unattended child in a car. I know, I was chastised by some woman for leaving my dog in my truck while I went to the ATM. I was gone two minutes and the dog was never out of my sight. But I digress.

    The part these laws that worry me, is the language that police can take whatever action they see fit to protect a child left unattended in a car. Being the cynical, cop hating, person that I am (and having read way too many stories about cop shooting dogs), I’m pretty sure “what aver action they see fit” to mean shooting out the back window of my car after 3 minutes and killing my child in his car seat. But hey, the bent straw in his juice box kind of resembled a gun, and the cop I guess feared for his life.

  18. Papilio April 25, 2014 at 9:41 am #

    “Sometimes I tweet these smaller stories, which allows me to get them out to the public without writing a whole post. But since I worry not everyone who reads the blog sees my tweets, from time to time I am going to start putting little items here without much comment. I just want them to be seen.”

    Maybe you could put them together in one post from time to time, with a shortish description and a link, if it’s just about them being seen? Just an idea.

  19. SKL April 25, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    “If it was literally just three mins then how did anyone even have time to call the cops or have the cops arrive?”

    This happened to me. Actually it was less than 3 minutes between the time I locked the car and the time the cop drove up and blocked it in.

    Someone must have seen me leaving the kids (two 2nd graders) and going into the FedEx store, and called immediately. The cop who came must have just happened to be close, because either he was not in uniform or he wasn’t in an actual police car (I can’t remember which now). I guess the cops consider a kid in a car to be one of the few things that deserves instant response.

    A lot of people thought I was lying about the 3 minutes, because they’ve never heard of a cop responding that fast to anything. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I was watching the clock closely because I was in a big hurry to get somewhere before closing time. (And why would I lie, when it would have been no more dangerous if it were 4 or 5 minutes….)

  20. Anonymous Person April 25, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    Yes, the police station is three blocks away, and response time should be minimal. I’m related to one of the assistant DAs there. This is not the first case they’ve prosecuted for this violation, though they usually let parents walk one time after a warning.

    Also to be considered might be the fact this individual is, as they say, “known to police.” A previous conviction for shoplifting from Walmart might have made the DA more likely to press charges.

    I do think it’s a stupid law, and should be changed. There’s a bit of a stretch from the 200 kids who die every year from being left in cars and ducking into the library to get your cellphone. The question is how to prevent such deaths without inconvenience to parents who, say, wouldn’t park their kids in the lot at the casino on a sunny day but only at the convenience store in the shade for five minutes. There’s a fairly narrow temperature range that is neither too cold nor too hot in an unattended car after an hour.

  21. Brenna April 25, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Anonymous – 200 kids die in cars each year? Really? How about some fear mongering? The average is 38. Which is far fewer kids than choke to death, are poisoned, car accidents, random freak accidents, etc. Persecuting someone for running in for a 10 minute errand, probably with the car running, is ridiculous.

  22. mystic_eye April 25, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    Anonymous Person,

    Many of the 200 kids who die in cars die because their parents had a simple lapse of memory. Usually something threw off their normal routine, they were in the car in a situation where they would not normally have the child and the human brain went into autopilot. It happens, the human brain is really bad for that sort of thing. The only real way around it is devices that detect an occupant in the car and set off an alarm if the temperature is too high (or cold), but car manufacturers won’t install them I think because they’d be liable if they fail.

    As for parents who leave their children in casino parking lots, the other addicts, and homeless or poor mothers who end up in situations where they (believe they) have no choice, the mothers with post-partum depression and/or other mental disorders, or the abusive parents, the prevention is to catch these people and their kids before they fall that far. Though this can be hard to do without being intrusive. As for making it illegal you don’t need separate laws – the same laws that apply to leaving your child unattended and/or in a hazardous situation anywhere apply to a car.

  23. John April 25, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    The infant was unsecured in her seat carrier. So what could happen? The kid rolling out onto the soft seat? Goodness sakes, don’t most people leave their infants unattended when they go to sleep at night and for 8 hours with periodic waking up for diaper changes?

  24. John April 25, 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    @Brenna….actually it was only for 3 minutes.

  25. SKL April 25, 2014 at 2:07 pm #

    Yeah, who cares if the kid was unsecured in the car seat when the vehicle was not even moving? Even if the child did climb out of it, there wouldn’t be far to fall. It’s not like it’s at poolside or next to a cliff. :/

    Why isn’t it illegal for people to carry babies in their arms? I mean, that’s not even an approved restraint. Babies could be dropped. It happens! Come to think of it, I’m afraid it isn’t much of a stretch for those who care about our kids more than we do to start requiring an approved safety harness whenever we carry our kids around. :/

  26. anonymous this time April 25, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

    “When our ideas of risk, especially regarding children, are so inherently unreasonable, laws that are based on the reasonableness of risk seem increasingly problematic.”

    Subjective interpretation of words like “unreasonable,” “inappropriate,” and “dangerous” mean that the laws that employ them are pretty much a joke.

    Again, I will cite my daughter’s struggles with anxiety and the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy principles we’re employing to help her live a life of relative ease and full participation. A huge part of that programme is differentiating between “what if” thoughts and “what is” thoughts.

    We are arresting people for “what if.” That’s just… well, I wouldn’t call it sanity.

  27. Jessica April 25, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    @SKL, I don’t remember the name, but a couple of years ago there was a celebrity mom out walking with her new baby and just carrying him in her arms. Well, someone snapped a picture that made it look, in that instant, that she was close to dropping him. The whole world freaked out and most of the comments did, in fact, continually question why she wasn’t using a stroller. And in the hospital, apparently it is illegal to carry a newborn in your arms. I think almost everyone who’s ever had a baby in the hospital has been yelled at about it.

  28. SKL April 25, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    I know I’ve said this before on other posts. But just for the sake of entertainment, here are some things people believed “could have happened” in the 3 minutes my 2nd graders were alone in a parked, locked car (in low-crime Suburbia at Sunset on a mild Monday evening):

    They could have figured out a way to start a fire with the cigarette lighter (I don’t have one in my car).

    They could have strangled themselves in your power windows. (I don’t have power windows.)

    There could have been a pedophile hanging out by the Starbucks/FedEx (an obvious place to look for stray kids), AND he could have busted your windows (in full view of the Starbucks clientele sipping their coffee outdoors), AND your two second-grade kids could have decided to go with him without a fight, all within the <3 minutes you were in a nearby storefront.

    The car could have spontaneously kicked into gear. It happens!

    It might have been hotter or sunnier than you thought it was. Are you sure it was 8:30pm? Not high noon? Are you sure it was 3 minutes and not half an hour?

    Your kid could have suddenly become ill and die right there within 3 minutes. (This could only happen in your car, never in their bed where they sleep without you all night long.)

    Your kids might have decided you were gone too long, got out of the car to go find you, and walked in front of a truck.

    A kidnapper could have snatched YOU and dragged you out the back door of FedEx, and then your poor children would expire in the car.

    I am sure there were others. But seriously. These were all said by parents who are responsible for raising actual children. Scary.

  29. Lindsey April 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    Don’t tread on me!

  30. Dave April 25, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    Wow, whoever wrote this either knows something we don’t, or isnt aware of the law:

  31. SOA April 25, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    I think you are referring to Miss Britney Spears. She had some incident where she was carrying her son and the papparazzi were bothering her up in her face and she tripped and almost dropped her drink and her son. I probably would have had him in a baby carry snugli thing or a stroller in her situation since she knows the papprazzi are always in her face but she didn’t drop the baby just almost did and maybe they should have offered her a hand instead of harassing her?!

  32. SKL April 25, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    I had a feeling it was Britney Spears. She could do no right. I am not a fan, but why do they gang up on people to the nth degree?

    I also thought it was ridiculous what they did over Michael Jackson holding his baby over the balcony rail. That kid was never in danger. People need to get a life.

  33. JP Merzetti April 25, 2014 at 7:17 pm #

    “approximately” 3 minutes….
    (could this stat err on the side of caution and be closer to two minutes?)
    “All it takes is 5 seconds!!!!!”
    (I hear the howls of anguished anxiety and panic….)
    Who called the cops? When? How?
    – wish the um……air force coulda had that kinda response time on 9/11.
    The child-rearing gestapo strike again.
    How did the cops know it was 3 minutes? Were they timing it from second #1?
    Nice to know good old CPS is out there busy earning their paychecks.
    Before we know it, this mom too, will be turned into a panic stricken helicopter-hoverer. Nice work, folks.

  34. Kate April 25, 2014 at 10:26 pm #

    I have nine children. At one time they had a paper route they delivered once a month. One month, in July, the older two girls were not able to do the route. The 12, 10 and 8 year old asked their 6 year old brother if he wanted to help. Long story short, it was mid 90’s that day temp wise. The cops were called on my husband (who was overseeing the delivery) because he had his 6 year old out in the heat walking the streets of a neighborhood not his own (i.e. unfamiliar). They were going to arrest my husband and he called me to come get the other children. They only let him go because I came to have the children released to my care. Children’s Services came to my house to investigate as a followup to that incident. The children had to quit the paper route because although the city official I talked to said it was a ridiculous situation, he would do nothing to help insure that my children and husband would not be harassed again next time they delivered. I know the nanny state and I do not like it one bit.