From last night’s email:
Free-Range Kids:.Hello! Â My name is L. and today I had a pretty traumatic experience. I am a nanny for 3 children and haven’t been doing it for too long.
.Today when I had the kids I needed to get gas so I pulled into the nearest gas station pulled out my card and swiped at the pump, the pump for whatever reason told me to pay inside. So I cracked the window even though the temp was around 65 and windy I even had a light jacket on, and locked the doors. I went inside to pay.Â .When I came back out there was a strange lady by my car and she started screaming at me say how Awful of a person I was and so on. She had called the police and when he arrived he said I did a terrible thing and I’m not responsible and am lucky he wasn’t pressing charges on me. It wasn’t the heat that he complained about it was the fact that someone could have put their hand in the window and unlocked the door and taken the kids. ‘Â .Growing up my mom left me in the car all the time, so when I told the officer I didn’t think it was a problem he fired back and called the children’s parents. I just don’t get what the big deal is. I’m not sure how many parents take their kids inside the gas station when getting gas. I live in Ohio and from my understanding there are no laws again such a thing. I really need to know if what I did was wrong or people are just over reacting .
I wrote back: You did nothing wrong at all, and people who think that in the time it takes to pay for gas your kids are going to be kidnapped need a strong dose of reality. The chances of any child getting kidnapped in America are 0.00007%. In fact: MORE CHILDREN DIE IN PARKING LOTS than if they wait IN the car.Â
I wish that crazy “good Samaritans” and the cops could understand how outrageously rare kidnapping is. But with TV showing us night after night of tragedies, it is really hard to keep perspective. They can’t remember: If it’s on the news it’s because it is RARE. We don’t turn on the news and see the 100s of millions of kids who waited in the car a few minutes and NOTHING HAPPENED.
LetÂ me know if you’d like me to run your story on my blog. I hope that the more people hear about this outrageousness, the more it becomes an issue that we have to change. And also, let me reassure you that most likely this is the end of it. If the cop isn’t pressing charges, that’s it. Thank goodness.
I’mÂ so sorry you went through this needless assault on you and your judgment. IÂ would hire you as a nanny in a second! – L
And she wrote back:
Thank you for taking the time to reply to my email. Yesterday I felt extremely stressed about the whole situation and being a 20 year old without kids I was worried that I did do something wrong. When I was younger my mom left me in the car for the gas station, post office, cvs, to get milk and so on. It never seemed to be a problem.Â .I watch over 3 kids, 4,5 and 15 months. In my head it was a much better option to leave the kids in the car then unbuckle them from all their car seats and leave.. I also considered the time that it would take. So if someone could get all three children out of my car and in to theirs in under the 2 minutes I was in the gas station… Â It would be impossible. I would be okay if you would like to run my story, I would like to remain anonymous for the sake of my job. I also went online and did some research of the city of where this occurred and found this:.
It’s a website that shows the crime rate in the city I was in.
Lenore here: I looked at the website. Last year the town had ONE, count ’em, ONE count of violent crime in a town of 13,533. It rates 94 out of 100 in terms of safety. How DARE a cop treat this young woman as if she had TRULY endangered the kids, when that is patently, provably, pathetically untrue? And what we can WE do — the Free-Range community — to stop this cruelty and suspicion? Really, please come up with some solutions. I can’t take it! – L
Unfortunately, no amount of statistics is going to change people’s fear. It’s trauma based, post 9/11, pushed by financial interests in a fear-based economy. Fear of disease, fear of kidnapping, fear of death is what it comes down to. Those living under fear are easily controlled but those who profit from it. Increased military spending, more prisons, more police, more vaccinations, more medications. The solution? I think Timothy Leary was on to something. Or how about a million kid march on Washington? Leave the parents home.
I don’t know what logic or reason can do about this. If somebody can’t see right off that wrangling three kids in a parking lot is way more dangerous than leaving them in the car while you pay, what could possibly convince them?
Rick is right. It’s the Hysteria-Media Complex that’s scaring people to death.
“What am I being charged with?”
“Am I being detained?”
I am unaware of any law that says you must stand there and listen to a lecture from a cop.
Because in a small town like that with virtually no crime, busybodies and Barney Fife have to give themselves something to do, so lets jump on the poor young woman taking one minute to walk into the gas station to pay for gas.
Was the one single violent crime the city had a kidnapping? If not, please tell me the last time in that city any kid whatsoever was kidnapped by a stranger. The kidnapping ring there must be getting antsy, so I suppose it’s possible they were waiting at that particular gas station for those particular 5 minutes. Not to mention the kids were probably within sight or earshot of the Nanny and other responsible adults at all times! The Nanny did nothing at all that should have required any involvement by police or the state.
On the other hand, whether she did the right thing is totally between her and the parents. If they want to instruct her not to do that anymore, that should be fine. Hopefully the nanny has good enough communication with them that they can really figure out whether they would have wanted the Nanny to (1) bring all three kids in ( I can imagine what a disaster it would have been) (2) run in and pay while being aware of the kids as I think she did or (3) indemnify the nanny with instructions to speed away with the kids rather than go in and pay in that circumstance. Actually I sort of like #3 it makes for a fun story!
There is nothing wrong with using common sense and not dragging three small children in and out of a car to pay for gas.
What I would have done is confronted the Bad Samaritan who called the police and harassed you. Call out her interest in these children, turn the attention on her- is she a pedophile? Why is she distressing these children with her paranoia? Is she in need of medication or a mental health evaluation?
Yes, lets wait for the police. I want to report your bizarre, concerning behavior for creeping on my kids and file a report against her.
No one should be treated like this. Stand your ground against harassing behavior.
So, the cop called the children’s parents. What did the parents have to say? Both at the time and after?
Do-gooders are so annoying. One time I was walking to the park when I was 10 and this stranger came up to me and started telling me to be careful and don’t talk to strangers and I was thinking,” to late I’m talking to you and you are a stranger”.
Yea I wanna know the parents take on this.
There’s a good possibility that the busybody has connections to someone in law enforcement. which makes placating her concerns more important to them than someone else’s.
I mean, there ARE the very rare cases where somebody leaves the car idling with the keys in the ignition, and a child in car, and some car thief sees an opportunity but not the child. But for those, the problem is leaving the keys in the car, not the kid.
So… there’s a law enforcement agency that should have one of its members reported. (If it’s worth it to make waves.)
I think you should advise her to file a complaint against the police officer and if she knows the name of the screaming lady to file harassment charges (if applicable according to the law). I would think a random person, screaming at you in a public place and disrupting your day and possibly affecting your job could constitute as harassment or at the very least, disturbing the peace, or something?! I think we need to fight back against these crazies! I’m a mom of 5 kids ages 18, 14, 10, 8, and 11 months. Every single time I run to the store and don’t want to take the kids in (going in for just one or two things) I think about these stories. I would never, and have never left a baby or small children who are unable to fend for themselves in a parked car. I’ve never left children in a car on a day that was anything less than atleast a little chilly. If I leave them in the car, it’s for less than 15 minutes in our small, rural, town of about 15,000 people, with the doors locked on a cool day (or the car is running with the a/c blasting—DOORS LOCKED) and at least the 14 or 18 yr old has to be with them. There is nothing, not even the tiniest thing that is dangerous about that. Fortunately, we live in Texas where most people grew up riding around the back of pickup trucks and spending most of their time outdoors. I can speak for the out-of-staters living in our huge metropolitan areas but most of us are pretty sensible people. But if I was ever in this same situation, you better believe, I would be doing everything I could to turn it around on the crazy “do-gooder” that was screaming at me. I think first thing I would do is call the cops and report a crazy person standing by my car, yelling at me and my children and report that we felt threatened and in danger. Or I might simply drive away (if the cops weren’t already there). If I stayed and confronted the idiot, I would let them know in no uncertain terms that I will be pressing charges, even if the law wouldn’t allow that, but they probably wouldn’t know that and the idea would be to rattle them and get them to back off. I also might start asking for their personal information and when they ask why, tell them I plan on hiring an attorney and filing suit (this would probably be most effective for someone in the above woman’s position since her job was being threatened). WE HAVE TO GIVE IT BACK TO THEM! People have gone to the extreme of poking their noses in our lives because they saw some heartbreaking commercial about babies being locked in hot cars and it urged them “to do something” but somehow they think that translates to “harass anyone who ever leaves a child in a car for any reason, under any circumstances”. People need to learn there are consequences for their bad behavior and that’s exactly what happened to this woman!
Take your inflammatory comment and shove it. You are again attempting to admit facts not in evidence for your own personal agenda. No where is it mentioned that the cop called the parents.
I would love for the cop to insist on calling the parents. How would he/she get the info out of the kids? None of the cops business what the parents think. The parents have put their trust in this nanny, and it is not the cops place to question that or second guess it.
I am more concerned about someone “reporting” me than I am about letting my kids have some freedom. I try to err on the side of freedom, but every time I do I stop and think, “Is someone going to report me?”
Stop your BS. Again, trying to twist the facts. The keys were not in the car, and it was not idling. Two comments trying to sideline the site.
I know online you will continue to be an arsehole. That is the nature of cowards like you. Because in person you wouldn’t get away with it.
“Take your inflammatory comment and shove it. You are again attempting to admit facts not in evidence for your own personal agenda. No where is it mentioned that the cop called the parents. ”
Sigh. You’ve got to let your obsession with me go, dude.
Anyway, in the story you’re commenting on, if you take the time to read it, you’ll find that it says
“he fired back and called the childrenâ€™s parents.”
which some people might interpret as the cop calling the parents, even if you don’t.
Unlike you I admit errors, and I did miss the call. My bad. Doesn’t change you being a goof.
What scares me more than a potential kidnapper are these crazy people waiting to catch someone leaving their kid in a car. Who knows what some of these people are capable of doing? I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try to kidnap your kids just to prove a point. “SEE! I TOLD YOU SOMEONE WOULD KIDNAP THEM!”
If they were simply concerned about the well-being of your child, they would wait there until you returned, and that would be that. But instead, they are always furious that you would even consider leaving your kids alone for a second. They are full of rage. They want to punish people for having the audacity to live a life that’s not full of fear.
I have never understood why people put up with this crap.
With a cop standing there lecturing you, “Am I being detained?”. When the cop says no, tell him/her to get lost. It is that simple.
With a busybody, you just push past them and tell them to eff off. It is that simple.
With people like James, you give the blowhard a quick shot in the yap, with your dozen friends swearing on a stack of bibles that James tripped and you tried to catch him.
Look, I am generally conservative and I support the police. As of late, they’ve received a lot of unfair abuse when all they’re doing is trying to protect the public. I’ve lived in and visited foreign countries and I can tell you that America has one of the best trained and most professional police forces in the world. They also work in one of the most micromanaged jobs in America. Now I say this so people will not write me off as being anti-cop.
Because even with all that said, policemen do make mistakes and they should not be beyond criticism. This police officer, in my opinion, was way out of line. Now he may be a very good police officer but he used very poor judgment in this situation and lacked complete common sense. Unfortunately, when it comes to children, most Americans lack common sense and let me say that we conservatives are just as bad as liberals and sometimes even worse when it comes to the Overprotection of children.
I agree with Lenore, this harassment has got to end!
One option is to tell the cop he/she has nothing to go on, but I like Lollipoplover’s idea better.
Confront the busybodies. If you see something like this unfold, and see someone about to call the cops on a young nanny like this, confront him or her. Let them know the facts, let them know that you have obtained their license plate for the record, etc.. Make the BUSYBODIES feel like the criminal (without any threats or violence of course). We need to shame people right back in the way that others have been shamed (and way worse) for knowing the facts about the dangers to their kids and acting accordingly by giving them the freedom they need.
If you see someone calling the cops on parents/guardians engaging in sensible behavior, say something.
Our local Giant Tiger store (do you guys have those?) has put signs in their window stating that “if an employee notices a child or animal in distress left in a vehicle in our parking lot, we will take action”. At least they added “in distress” but I wonder if they received any instructions on what distress is. The next time I am there I will ask the employees what they were told to do.
“I have never understood why people put up with this crap.”
Amazingly, some people don’t default to “confrontational”.
“With a cop standing there lecturing you, â€œAm I being detained?â€. When the cop says no, tell him/her to get lost. It is that simple.”
If your goal was to be detained.
“With people like James, you give the blowhard a quick shot in the yap, with your dozen friends swearing on a stack of bibles that James tripped and you tried to catch him.”
Seriously, this obsession, where you keep fantasizing about doing violence to me, has got to stop.
I am amazed in this case how quick the “Samaritan” and the cop were able to get to the gas station, find the problem, report it, and show up to berate the young nanny.
I see kids in cars at the gas station all the time, mine included, when I can get them to STAY in the car and not help me by washing the windows…never seen strange people hanging out and looking at cars for kids inside. In this situation I’d get the names and be ready to report them, the Samaritan and Cop were WAY out of line in this case.
I also find it funny that these two were Nanny Policing the Nanny. Hard to make this stuff up!!!
“If you see someone calling the cops on parents/guardians engaging in sensible behavior, say something.”
Even better: Record it. Preserve a record of what, exactly, happened.
Most police are professional. The ones that aren’t subvert the reputations of the ones who are, and their worst enemy is the video recording showing them doing something their official report says they didn’t.
Love your methods, Warren! Keep it up.
Pay attention, Warren. The nanny DID say in her letter that the cop called the children’s parents.
What I wish someone would say to those “what if someone grabbed the kids?!?!?” fearmongers: “Would you have let someone do that? You were RIGHT HERE; are you telling me you’d’ve let some creepy person walk up to the car and grab these kids in the two minutes before I got back out of the store? You wouldn’t have tried to talk to them and say, hey, what are you doing? If one of the kids was in distress, would you have walked away and let them suffer, or would you have reached in to help–or at least yelled at me to get the hell out here and help them?”
Caretakers accused of “abandonment” need to be able to say, “I didn’t leave these kids abandoned in the tundra; I left them in an area with plenty of other adults who could notice a problem and at least yell ‘HEY KID-RELATED PROBLEM HERE’ and I’d be able to come back in a hurry.”
The woman who claims, “but I COULD HAVE BEEN an evil criminal out to do harm to your kids!” should get an answer of, “so… are you? If not, then my judgment is sound.”
We take this crap from cops because we prefer not to be arrested or have a $200 ticket written on specious charges, or having a gun pulled on us.
Cops can make your life miserable if they choose to. And it’s especially easy for them if you’re young, or don’t have much money, or are not white. The nanny in the story above is in the first two of those categories; perhaps the third too, though we can’t tell.
Maybe you can get away with telling a cop to get lost (your words) but I assure you that not everyone can.
Elf: I agree! How would that pan out? Turn the tables on the “do gooder” and see how that conversation goes, eh?
As a parent who employed a nanny for over a decade, I want to say that I would be in complete agreement with my nanny’s judgment if she had made the same decision here. And it’s sad that this caregiver has to worry about her job it a situation like this.
The Other Anna,
Pay attention!!!! I admitted my error.
This Nanny did everything right. She showed exceptional judgement in leaving the kids in the car, which is much safer than wrangling 3 kids across a gas station parking lot. I have 3 kids of similar ages, and I would have done the exact same thing.
Even though this poor woman was being bullied by the busy-body and the police officer, it sounds like she kept her cool and did her best to de-escalate and diffuse the situation. A confrontation could have had serious consequences.
I hope her employers have her back. They should all have a good laugh about the absurdity of it all, then the parents should file a complaint with the police chief about the officer’s attitude. I mean honestly, 3 young kids loose in a gas station parking lot (the nanny has but two hands, after all)? What was he thinking?
How mortifying. I am sorry this young woman had to endure this “Through the Looking Glass” kind of “Paranoia is the new normal” experience, but hey, there has to be a sea change coming soon.
And for all the folks who sometimes badger Lenore for printing stories like this, saying that they are SO RARE as to not be a reason to speak out or tacitly change our own behaviour raising our kids, I say it’s not rare enough.
Keep publishing these stories. Let’s get them some press. We’ve seen news magazine stories about over parented kids from a development standpoint… we need more about how stressful it is for parents, to assume everyone is watching and waiting for you to step out of line… a line that is imaginary, and has changed so dramatically in a generation that few of us can possibly keep up, never mind agree with the hysteria.
We do not fear cops here. As a matter of fact I am good friends with cops on various forces, through business and recreation. And they are the first to tell you that you do not have to put up with a cop being a jerk. They only enforce the law, they are not the law.
I have, and will tell a cop to get lost, when they are over stepping. I do not have to take crap from them. You want to be a coward, go for it.
Telling a cop to get lost is not against the law.
I think I would have “killed her with kindness”. My husband regularly works with a company in China and he has noticed they almost always start their e-mails with a thank you. A thank you is a very powerful way to diffuse a situation.
If this had happened to me I probably would have said something like “Thank you so much for keeping an eye on my kids for a moment. It is safer to leave them in the car for a minute or two, than it is to walk 3 small children across a parking lot, but I always worry. It makes me feel better knowing that others are looking out for them.”
An answer like that would probably have immediately diffused the woman. If you respond to her with anger, she would just feel justified in her cause and continue to believe you are an awful person who has no idea how to keep kids safe. The sentence about leaving them in the car being safer than dragging them across the parking lot, gives her real information to think about in a non threatening way and tells her that you do take their safety seriously.
I was in court yesterday where someone pleaded guilty to reckless conduct for leaving a child in a car. It was not my case so I don’t know the details, but it attracted my attention. Nothing else was given for the facts that supported the conviction – no “it was 112 degrees” or the car rolled into a ditch or anything similar which would possibly make this a valid charge. Based on the reckless conduct charge, I would bet that the woman either left her child in the car intentionally in a perfectly safe situation or forgot her child in the car and remembered before any harm came to the child. No she has 12 month probation.
Society grants a lot of authority to police, and also gives them fairly wide discretion as to its use. They have authority to determine whether a particular incident results in an arrest, or not; they have the authority to detain for investigation. This is entirely besides the firearm, nightstick, and probably Taser strapped to their utility belt.
Provoking a confrontation usually does not end well; they like Warren’s tactic of “we all saw him trip and fall”. Someone who is young, poor, darkly-colored, and unconnected cannot get away with things that people who are middle-aged, wealthy, white, and connected can get away with.
Avoiding confrontation vastly increases your odds of getting what you want in encounters with the police, just as it in most other things. When you go LOOKING for a confrontation, you’ll probably find one, and might not like the results. You might be in the wrong, and have to admit it later.
Though we can’t change the culture of fear immediately, we can stick to our guns and support one another. We can also personally educate and encourage others in our community to grant our kids some independence. Community support is the key…think nationally , act locally, right?
I have been allowing my young boys (ages 5 and 8) to wander around my very safe hood and knock on people’s doors to see if anyone wants to play. They are loving their freedom (as am I 🙂 and the other parents love that their kids are being entertained. It’s also inspiring them to go out of their comfort zone and give their kids a bit more freedom (though truthfully it’s slow-going).
I actually look forward to the day when law enforcement second-guesses my parenting decisions. I have my responses ready and am prepared to use them. I know my local laws and am ready to fight for my right to parent my children as i see fit.
“I was in court yesterday where someone pleaded guilty to reckless conduct for leaving a child in a car. […] I would bet that the woman either left her child in the car intentionally in a perfectly safe situation or forgot her child in the car and remembered before any harm came to the child. No she has 12 month probation.”
Was this person unrepresented? Or are you assuming that the defense attorney in the case badly mis-assessed the facts of the case?
(My assumption is that a person who takes a plea bargain does so because they have been advised by a competent professional that this is their best course of action, but, as has been pointed out to me, I do not have experience in this area. Taking a plea that carries a 12-month probation doesn’t seem like the best resolution, if all I’ve done is leave my kids in a perfectly safe situation.) What piece of the puzzle am I missing?
In my youth, being sent to the car was the usual punishment for failing to behave in public. Then again, we didn’t have bike helmets and mostly didn’t have car seats for kids, yet, either.
James, it is not a fantasy, just stating a fact that with your mouth constantly running, someone will shut it. That is why I believe you only do it from behind a keyboard. Cowards like you do that.
Just like you are afraid of your police. I could not live like that. Fear is not something I know.
I deal with the police on a semi regular basis, it is part of the job. Some of them think they have jurisdiction over our activities, and need to be straightened out. Usually they take the advice but some need to be told to get lost.
@M- While I agree that kindness and gratitude goes a long way with social interactions, the difference here is that the Bad Samaritan already called the cops.
Who thanks someone for calling the police for no reason???
Cell phones are a lot like guns- they can fire quickly and cause considerable damage and escalate confrontations that are best handled rationally and civilly.
So when this lady fired off that 911 call, she choose not be a good citizen and harass this nanny. Anyone who was truly concerned with the welfare of the children would wait by the car for the adult to return and then go about their business without escalating this to a police situation and traumatizing these kids with their caretaker being belittled.
We have to stop this mental illness of parenting police. I am not a confrontational person. I am a mama bear, though. Mess with my kids, you will receive my wrath. Creeping around my car with irrational, paranoid thoughts will bring on that wrath. I can whip out a phone and tape your crazy, especially if it frightens my children unnecessary. What about the children????
They should not be subjected to stranger-induced stress and harassment.
” Taking a plea that carries a 12-month probation doesnâ€™t seem like the best resolution, if all Iâ€™ve done is leave my kids in a perfectly safe situation.) What piece of the puzzle am I missing?”
Donna’s the expert here, but if the alternative is a six-month jail sentence and your attorney tells you that reasonable as your position may be, the judge will interpret the law to convict you and you’re going to get the book thrown at you, pleading out seems to be the sensible solution.
“it is not a fantasy, just stating a fact that with your mouth constantly running, someone will shut it.”
If it makes you happy to devote your time to imagining this, knock yourself out.
Long-term, your obsession with me is… sad, really. How frustrating for you it must be that all your bully-talk can’t change what I do or say in the slightest aspect, leaving with only imaginary responses.
Have a nice, day, anyway.
If the card won’t work at the pump I just leave and find another pump or gas station. Even If I am by myself. I am not fucking walking inside. I hate that.
Because I get stuck behind some jackass buying 100 lottery tickets. So sometimes it won’t be being inside just a minute. It could take forever.
“if the alternative is a six-month jail sentence”
Yes, 12 months of probation is probably preferable to 6 months in jail, but six months in jail is not the usual sentence for leaving your kids in a perfectly safe situation. Do the judges in this jurisdiction feel otherwise? Are the juries unusually likely to convict? Is it a case like the one in Pennsylvania where the judge was sentencing kids to the private prison that was giving him kickbacks?
Meanwhile, there’s a story in this week’s News of the Weird about the Virginia woman who was charged with leaving her kids in the hot car as she was inside the courthouse appearing on a charge of leaving her kids in a hot car.
James, you forgot to add “…twice”.
James, you are brilliant!
My most recent comment was in reference to this quote by James:
“Avoiding confrontation vastly increases your odds of getting what you want in encounters with the police, just as it in most other things. When you go LOOKING for a confrontation, youâ€™ll probably find one, and might not like the results. You might be in the wrong, and have to admit it later.”
We, too, are concerned that the right to make the decision, so long as a child is not harmed and not in imminent danger of ACTUAL harm, must remain with the parent or care-giver if we are to respect and honor the Constitutional right of parents, as found by our US Supreme Court as a fundamental right. Legislation most assuredly won’t get enacted, but we can turn the tide by lawsuits around the USA against law enforcement and CPS under such circumstances to require a protocol: (a) has a child been hurt? (b) is a child in distress? (c) is a child in imminent danger of actual harm from an identifiable danger or risk of harm? If the answer to all 3 is no, then law enforcement must not intervene, detain or refer to CPS and CPS must not take action. We hope that a US District Court (also known as “Federal Court”) will agree that the balance of rights of individuals and the “legitimate interests” of the state (another term for “government”) requires such a protocol be followed. Without pushing back, parents and care-givers will continue to be bothered and even arrested and charged with crimes (criminal child neglect) and/or face CPS investigations putting their children at risk of being taken into foster care. Thanks, Lenore, for continuing to shine a light on these absurd actions that do nothing to keep children safe. Thanks, too, for making people more aware of the National Association of Parents and our work in this arena as we are representing Courtney Tabor who faces criminal charges still and the Meitivs who were cleared with a finding of no neglect (after much wrangling)! Getting injunctive relief from a Federal Court is next! Everyone can help by becoming a member and/or donating. https://www.parentsusa.org/cases/ for more information.
Lenore, don’t know how to stop this except to keep the topic alive as you do. For what it is worth people outside this community seem to be taking up the topic and researching. Yahoo has an article right now with no indication they even thought of you, but the title sounded just like our arguments: “There’s No Such Thing As ‘Free-Range’ Parenting â€” It’s Just Parenting”
I think in that is half of the ultimate solution. Keep sewing the seeds of calm and rational though, and keep pushing back, until the panic is doused and free range parenting is “just parenting” again.
The other half is in the hands of people with the courage to fight it through court and your legal allies, to get the backing of some precedent that reasserts the clause about ‘substantial risk of harm’ that still exists in most places, and make prosecutors prove ‘substantial’. If they start loose that battle in court, it will put the cops and prosecutors on notice that putting forward a *theoretical* ‘risk of harm’ is simply not sufficient.
…. of course there is the NJ appeals court that shows getting judges to quit imagining a “parade of horribles” and deal in facts, may be difficult.
@ Regular commentators and lurkers such as myself –
When dealing with irrationally insecure people it is helpful to remember a few things:
Insecure people often prefer to continue any conflict rather than seek resolution, as long as they feel safe and physically removed from the conflict.
Insecure people always have a last word, usually whispered in public or posted on line. This allows them to maintain their personal fantasy of â€œwinning.â€
Any person who feels that a previous marriage has â€œscarred them for lifeâ€ is in dire need of emotional growth and maturity.
My preferred method of dealing with such people is to treat them like spam or unwanted advertising. Ignore it completely and read past it to the relevant part. In the unfortunate occurrence that that a child is exposed to this unhealthy mindset, use it as a teaching point and discuss how to deal with such damaged and weak people in the future.
Seriously, ignoring gadflies works well over time. Eventually they give up and move on to a more receptive target audience. Anyone who reads this site regularly knows how to differentiate between the functional, positive, and appropriate parents and the whining, victim mentality, complainers.
Anna July 2, 2015 at 10:02 am:
I don’t either. Just for comparison, if these stupid and malicious busybodies were around when I six years old or so in the late 1940s, they’d be laughed out of town. But with today’s laws and busybodies, countless parents would have died in prison serving LWOP.
On Saturday mornings my father routinely sent me to the store, about a mile walk which included crossing some RR tracks. Sometimes I even walked along the RR tracks. Both ways. Not the best idea, but all the trains moved about walking speed, and every kid knew to always look behind as well as ahead when walking along the tracks.
Compounding the crimes, my father usually gave me a dollar, and said “Bring me back a pack of Camels. Buy yourself some ice cream. And bring back the change.” So I did. That’s worth several felonies today for my father and the shopkeeper.
In first grade, I and my friends walked about a mile to school both ways, but not quite the same route, so no RR tracks. Just cut through some undeveloped woods instead.
By the time I was 10, I routinely mowed a big fraction of an acre with an electric mower. Had to be careful not to cut the several hundred foot power cord, which happened more than once.
We also routinely played in the woods, climbed trees, swung from vines playing Tarzan. Came crashing down more than once when the vines broke loose. Kids played around big ponds without direct adult supervision. Caught critters and crawlies in tin cans with sharp edges. Fished with cane poles, worms and sharp hooks. Jumped off farm buildings into plowed ground playing cowboy (or something). Nobody drowned, died from falls or snakebites, or even came close. We learned what not to do from a little parental common sense talking and a lot of running around without direct supervision.
Result: at a young age my friends and I could identify every venomous snake and insect by sight (and there were plenty, rattlesnakes, copperheads, water moccasins, scorpions, wasps, etc.). We knew not to reach under rocks and logs bare handed. We knew how to clean fish for cooking using sharp knives without slicing and dicing ourselves. We knew not to eat berries we didn’t definitely recognize as edible. We learned a whole host of things that kids are quite capable of learning without serious injury, but with a little parental cautionary talk and a lot of running around playing without an adult watching every move.
Worst bad consequences in my recollection: sometimes being miserable a day or two from ticks or monster chigger rashes inflicted when playing in blackberry patches. Chiggers are larval mites that hatch in berry patches and then crave blood. A good dose of chiggers will make anybody miserable for a day or so. But a nice swab bath with ammonia after picking berries usually keeps them down to a dull roar. That’s probably another few felonies.
Three felonies a day? More like thirty if somebody allowed kids to play that way today. You can thank stupid legislators, power-mad cops, maliciously asinine busybodies, and the abominable popular belief that children today face unspeakable dangers that no other children ever faced, much less survived. [/end rant]
Havva, I hope you’re right things are moving toward getting better, but I’m not confident that’s true. I was just at the playground with my son and I couldn’t believe how all the parents were hovering. I was the only person sitting on a bench in the shade reading; the others were all less than five feet from their kids (in the blazing sun), helping them up or down some equipment, nagging them not to climb the slide, etc. I understand staying close to a one-year-old who might not yet know how to climb or play alone, but most of these kids were 2 or 3 or older. Maybe that’s how all the moms want to spend their time, but I have to suspect it’s mostly a feeling of obligation and guilt at doing otherwise.
I’m beginning to think it’s not so much age, but the mentality of people. I know some elderly people gripped by the paranoia of today as well. You’d think they’d understand better than most, having lived through at least 2 generations before this one, and all the things that entailed them. Now some fear like everyone else. Just like there are strong willed people, there are weak willed ones.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with what this young lady did. And the cop and busy body were over analyzing, and over reacting. What they told her was based purely on their own opinions, and not facts. One would think a cop should know better. But in reality, they are people too. Susceptible to all the flaws and misguidance some of us fall prey too. It’s the human mind that controls what we think, feel and do. Sometimes, some people get easily manipulated, and what they think, they think is truth. Common sense and reason goes out the window in place of unsubstantiated fears.
I hope you that the parents of the children are one of the smarter ones, and saw that the nanny did in fact did nothing wrong. At the very least did nothing the parents wouldn’t have done in that situation. Does she still have her job?
Not only is there no law in Ohio against leaving a kid in the car for a few minutes, the organization pushing to make it illegal (kidsandcars.org) apparently got such laws proposed in the Ohio legislature and it failed!
My state is the same, and yet CPS calls it neglect.
If anyone here knows how to research it, I think it would be really helpful in those 13 states marked in yellow to get records of the debates involved and see if we could show that not only is it not technically illegal, but that the legislature specifically refused the chance to make it illegal.
A related topic of busybodies calling the police about is hot cars.
A quick search for actual peer-reviewed science experiments of non-sunny days had few results.
Most were trying to use fear to prove their a bias so they could sell something or gain ratings.
The only study was in Florida on the effectiveness of a window sun shield was inconclusive for cloudy days.
(Where I am seldom has many totally clear days.)
Asking what conditions are actually dangerous on here and elsewhere can help determine the relative risks of cloudy days, in the shade or vehicles having few windows.
Mythbusters showed that the difference between black or white cars in the sun was only 10 degrees.
I’ve never understood this hysteria around older kids in cars, especially when they say “someone could take them!” You’re telling me that a) the kid isn’t old enough to understand how a door lock works, and b) would just go quietly and willingly as someone carried them off?
When I was about 8, my mom left me in her car while she went grocery shopping, probably because I didn’t want to go in. It was night, and she left the keys in, with accessories on so I could listen to the radio. A group of stupid teenage boys came up to the window and said “hey little girl, we’re going to steal your car!” and laughed as they walked away. I waited until they left, got the keys, got out, locked the car again and ran into the store and found my mom. And I was left in the car alone afterwards, and I would leave my son when I thought he was old enough, if my state didn’t have a ludicrous “12-year-old or arrest” law.
Why are they saying that kids now aren’t smart enough to do this very thing?! If they had, say, broken the car window and tried to grab me, do these “Samaritans” actually think nobody would notice? That nobody would see someone reaching into a car and pulling out a screaming, thrashing child? If they’re so good that they noticed the kid when nothing was happening, would they turn their face when something actually WAS happening?
This insanity has to stop.
I just sent this to my state rep:
I wanted to write and ask you to take action against the laws in our state that make it an arresting offense to leave a child under the age of 12 in a parked car for any amount of time.
As it currently stands, Connecticut has no minimum age for a child to be left alone in a home, because children mature in their own ways and nobody knows when a child is ready better than a parent. It is completely contradictory to then turn around and tell the parents that they do not know best when their child is ready and arrest them for it. Arresting a parent is traumatic to the child, as would be having a parent in prison. These are not cases of abuse or neglect, nor even of “forgetting” a child in a car. These are parents and caregivers making a conscious choice for a short period of time. And these are not infants, these are 10- and 11-year-old kids. Saying to the parent of the 11-year-old “you’ve got to wait until they turn 12” is completely insane. What magic happens on a child’s 12th birthday that makes them instantly able to work door locks and handles, so that they can either lock out someone or get out of the car if there’s a problem? Frankly, this is insulting to both the parent and to the child.
I am writing this with my 7-month-old on my lap. I would never leave him in the car, but he might be ready when he’s 10. Shouldn’t I be the one to make that choice?
Thank you for your time.
Liz “Iâ€™ve never understood this hysteria around older kids in cars, especially when they say â€œsomeone could take them!â€
Yes! And also if someone might take an older kid who can run, kick, scream, etc wouldn’t that same “bad giuy” also take an adult? Why can adults sit alone in a car without attracting the “Good Samaritans”?
@dancing on thin ice and @Liz,
I started compiling data on kids in car deaths. 2014 showed none that paned out to a hot car death under 70deg, or under 15 minutes (those cars hadn’t been driven and were pre-heated), no child over the age of 5 (though one mom did die along with her kids), and as far as I can tell all wandered or forgotten. Slight problem is I have two holes in that data set. One of the holes is a set of parents arrested on “zero tolerance” with the cop claiming that kids can die in “seconds if it is hot enough.” Which I will assert is demonstrably false.
I would love to expand the info, and cover every death pointed to for these, but it is a fair amount of work, and I don’t know how to get the court records.
“Was this person unrepresented?”
“Or are you assuming that the defense attorney in the case badly mis-assessed the facts of the case?”
No, knowing the attorney involved, she had very good legal advice.
“What piece of the puzzle am I missing?”
The piece that says the DA is not dropping the charges, leaving the only option being to go to trial. The piece where losing a trial ALWAYS results in confinement time of some duration. The piece where many people are not willing to risk their careers, homes and children in order to prove that they are right. Possibly the piece where she was facing felony cruelty to children charges at trial and was offered a misdemeanor to plea, but I can’t say that for sure since it wasn’t my case.
But for the most part, you – and many others who comment here – seem to miss the piece that juries are just people. People who watch the same tragic news stories of babies dying in cars and read advice to never leave a child in a car for a second. People who are as likely to be helicopter as free range. You are not entitled to a jury of free range parents. Those people who comment on every article about this subject with “these kids should be taken by CPS” could be on your jury. In every jury trial is a risk. It is a risk some are willing to take and one that some are not. Deciding to take a plea is not as simple as did you do it or not.
“but six months in jail is not the usual sentence for leaving your kids in a perfectly safe situation.”
On what do you based that opinion?
“Do the judges in this jurisdiction feel otherwise?”
If the person is convicted at trial, yes. Because there is a trial tax for every trial you have. You will never walk out of the door having lost a trial with a sentence less than or equal to what you were offered to plea before trial.
“Are the juries unusually likely to convict?”
No more so than any others. I don’t think this is a slam dunk winner of a trial anywhere. There are too many paranoid people in the world.
“One of the holes is a set of parents arrested on â€œzero toleranceâ€ with the cop claiming that kids can die in â€œseconds if it is hot enough.â€ Which I will assert is demonstrably false.”
Let me start by saying “what’s the other one?”
But then I’ll take the cop’s side in an allegedly humorous way.
It IS possible that kids can die in seconds if it is hot enough. Cars, on their own, do not get that hot, but some places, such as blast furnaces and nuclear bomb test sites do. So if you park in a blast furnace or at a nuclear weapon test site, take your kids with you when you get out of the car or risk arrest.
“But for the most part, you â€“ and many others who comment here â€“ seem to miss the piece that juries are just people.”
From what information are you deriving my presumed lack of understanding of juries?
“You are not entitled to a jury of free range parents.”
Nor do I need one. One out of six should be sufficient.
“Deciding to take a plea is not as simple as did you do it or not.”
Nor did I suggest it was. As I suggested, I assume defendant was represented by counsel who knows how to negotiate a plea deal, who wouldn’t have advised taking a plea deal with probation attached unless there was a high likelihood of conviction on the original charge, and, being an optimist, I like to think that there’s a high correlation between people who are charged with crimes and people who are guilty of crimes, and an even higher correlation between people who are convicted of crimes and people who are guilty of those crimes.
â€œ’but six months in jail is not the usual sentence for leaving your kids in a perfectly safe situation.’
On what do you based that opinion?”
The very high statistical ratio of “people who leave their kids in a perfectly safe situation:people who are not sentenced to six months in jail as a result, which is nearly 1:1. Conversely, if the usual sentence for “leaving your kids in a perfectly safe situation” was six months, then most parents, who leave their kids in perfectly safe situations nearly all of the time, would be in jail, which they aren’t. Q.E.D.
My “law school” read is that if the competent, professional defense attorney suggested taking the plea deal, it is because there was a significant chance of conviction. Further, I assume that there was a significant chance of conviction because there was some meaningful element of putting the kids at risk, and the prosecution had evidence of. Note: I do not claim that it must be so, merely that this is the most likely case. Without the facts, I cannot judge but accepting a plea deal does carry the risk of friends, family, strangers alike believing that you are, in fact, guilty. That the person is guilty, and has received a just sentence, should be on the list of possibilities but you left it off. So… what led you to omit it?
Talk about taking a knife to a gunfight. James is going to take on Donna.
James= plastic picnic knife
Donna= .50 cal. gatling gun
It would be fair to say that jury trials are not so much about the law, as they are about what the people on the jury feel is right.
“Talk about taking a knife to a gunfight. James is going to take on Donna.”
You and your spork are welcome, too. But hush, I’m trying to learn something here.
I’m embarrassed to say that I’m from Brecksville. I disagree with the commenter calling it a small town, as it’s a suburb of Cleveland in a metro area of 2.7 million. However, many moved there to escape the dangers of living near a big, bad city, so it doesn’t surprise me that some of the residents are completely paranoid about crime. I mean, my parents have all doors dead bolted there, all with different keys, and keyed locks on the INSIDE as well, completely in spite of the fact that there is zero crime there.
That said, the police used to truly serve the community. They’d give residents the benefit of the doubt and were actually helpful. If this is the norm now, I’m glad I moved. That said, I’ll write the mayor on behalf of the poster who was harassed. Totally ridiculous.
You did the best thing under the circumstances… Taking three kids across the busy gas pump lanes with cars constantly coming and going is MORE of a risk than leaving them safely secured in the car.
It SHOULD have been obvious to everyone involved that you’d be back in minutes.
I would have done just as you did, and MOST people do.
This exact thing happened to me minus the police, but she threatened to call them.
First the woman was 1000% out of line, second the police officer should have know the law & told the Busy body that the children were fine & safe & that no laws were broken, but thanks for her concern & went on his way to catch a speeder or something.
Another time I was getting my phone checked at the store & was less than 50 ft away, my 4 & 8 yr old were in the car, buckled in their seats in a locked car, windows cracked on a not hot day playing on their tablets. I was parked right by the door & came out every 5 min to check on them & was watching through the window while waiting to be helped then some busy body woman & her teen daughter gave me an ear full & told me they thought about reaching in an unlocking the door & taking the kids to teach me a lesson. I informed her that she would be breaking the law & I would call the police if she made such an attempt.
Anyone that thinks that three children are safer running amok at a busy gas station with toxic & flammable chemicals vs buckled safely in their car seats in a locked car with the window crack in not hot weather for 5-10 minutes while their caregiver is less than 100 feel away, needs to have their head examined.
There are times I don’t take my children out of the car because they are safer inside. If that woman or the officer knew how long it takes to get young children unbuckled from a carseat they wouldn’t make such a stupid remark.
After reading through the comments I want to note that this is not a small town problem, I live just north of Los Angeles & we have lots of busy buddies her who think nothing of telling you that you are doing something wrong & threaten to call the police. It’s sad and tragic when a young child is left in a hot car & dies, but these are not a result of parents who intentionally leave a child for under 15 min in a not hot locked car with the windows cracked. These are usually the result of a caregiver forgetting the child in a hot locked car for hours & often on a hot or warm day.
Pretty much the exact same thing happened to me this year, except I am the kids mother, rather than nanny.
This situation is a case where the actions of the few punishes the many. I know how it feels to be a caregiver, trying her best to be the best parent possible, and get accused of being neglectful. It feels terrible. I sympathize with the do-gooders and police, however, to a certain extent, because kids do die in hot cars. I hear you that the day wasn’t hot, but unfortunately, laws don’t consider circumstances. They are blanket statements.
I don’t know what the answer is but I don’t think it’s as simple as right vs wrong. The laws are there to protect us and the nanny in the story (as well as myself when this happened to me) was doing her best to make good choices regarding the children. They all had good intentions, and ultimately, all had the same desire, to keep the children safe.
I’d like to think our police officers are trained enough to use their best judgement when determining whether or not a situation is truly dangerous, but several stories in the news lately have me questioning the training procedures for our police force.
Anyway, I could continue rambling about this, but my main point is that I sympathize with all parties. How can we, as a society, use laws to keep people safe without over-generalizing those laws to situations that aren’t truly dangerous?
The issue that is missed is that another car could have rear ended the vehicle the children were in…having the care taker in the car would not have prevented an accident, but the care taker would have been able to react instantly rather than being away from the scene even for a few minutes. The other option that the good samaritin (sp?) might have used would be to stand next to the car until the care taker returned rather than immediately call the police.
I so truly agree with you, it’s ridiculous my mom also left me with her a lot of times as back then they pump the gas so we don’t have that problem but she always ran into the store just to get a few groceries.Are into the church and she was a Sunday school teacher she could pick up a few things anything my aunts house stay there Kids be right back gotta talk to Aunt Jane is for a minute I mean really let’s get real I’m truly sorry how they treated you, yes it’s important to pay attention but like you said its probably you more dangerous to unbuckle them go across the gas station parking lot with people are pulling in and out to get gas to run them in there to pay and come right back its two trips across the parking lot where people going in and out to get gas no fret don’t even give it time a day you’re awesome. It just shows how responsible you are to even give it a second thought to do inquiries and blog about it I have you for a babysitter anytime thank you!
We need to ask the police be reasonable, to see to it that our lawmakers to make our needs clear, and to demand our courts to force the changes that justice requires.
Many have died to protect our way of life, so don’t let mistakes and uninformed individuals let it slip away.
James, many people find it advisable to accept a plea bargain even when the evidence is relatively weak. Sometimes, there is information about the defendant or how he appears when testifying that increases the chance of conviction regardless of the strength of the evidence. For others, even a small risk of conviction is less acceptable to the defendant than the deal being offered. For many defendants certain probation is way better than even a small chance of even a short custodial sentence for financial or family reasons.
” For many defendants certain probation is way better than even a small chance of even a short custodial sentence for financial or family reasons.”
Sure. Accepting this as true (my only quibble, if any, is just how many is “many”) There’s still that much larger group of “many” who take the plea deal because they were guilty. (At least, I assume that this group is much larger than the group of people who are actually innocent, but look guilty enough with the evidence available to have a realistic possibility of being convicted.)
I’m not idealistic enough to think that we never charge innocent people. I’m not even idealistic enough to believe that we never convict innocent people. You get cases where evidence points to the wrong person (notoriously, eyewitness identification of strangers, particularly cross-racial identifications.) You get cases where the cops fixate on a suspect to the exclusion of other suspects, even though the evidence is what it is. But, (I believe) most of the time the evidence makes you look guilty because you are guilty.
A gosling that views the first living thing will identify it as its mother. Upon coming out of their eggs, they will follow and become attached (socially bonded) to the first moving object they encounter (which usually, but not necessarily, is the mother duck, goose, or hen) This phenomenon is know as brain imprinting. If a human is the first thing gosling sees, they’ll follow him around and treat him like the mother goose. This may sound ridiculous but that’s what happened to Austrian naturalist Konrad Lorenz (1903 – 1989), one of the founders of ethology (the study of animal behavior).
I think this is the same thing as danger and children in cars. Some people have thought so long about ‘what if’, that kidnappers and pedophiles have been imprinted on their brain.
Next time you see a hysterical person that’s livid about kids waiting in a car for 5 minutes, quack at them.
“…..I donâ€™t know what logic or reason can do about this.”
There is no quick fix. However as more understand this absurdity, things will start to change even more. They’re already changing. If the Meitiv’s had their problem 5 years ago, there’s no way the charges would have been dropped. They wouldn’t have had 1/50th of the support behind them.
“One out of six should be sufficient.”
One out of six, at best, only gets you a second trial. I say at best as it is not uncommon at all for the one to join the five to resolve the case. juries get a pretty forceful “make a damn decision” instruction from the judge before a hung jury is declared.
“I assume defendant was represented by counsel who knows how to negotiate a plea deal, who wouldnâ€™t have advised taking a plea deal with probation attached unless there was a high likelihood of conviction on the original charge,”
Well your first mistake is in assuming that the attorney advised the client to take the plea. My advice is exactly that, advice not a mandate. My clients are free to take it or leave it and some choose to leave it. Whether to plea guilty or not is one of the extremely few decisions in a criminal case (there are really only 3) that is totally under the control of the Defendant. I am obligated to honor my client’s decision and make it happen to the best of my ability even if I think it is the dumbest decision in the history of decisions. You have absolutely no idea whatsoever what the attorney’s advice was in this case.
But yes many people plead guilty regardless of the likelihood of conviction for a myriad of reasons. The inability to bond out of jail is the most common. Very few will sit in jail for 1-2 years waiting for trial when they are handed the keys to the jail door via a guilty plea for probation. Other reasons include: family considerations, jobs, mandatory minimums and sentence enhancements after trial.
Your second mistake is in assuming that only cases with a high likelihood of conviction are advised to plea. I often advise people with moderate and even low likelihoods of conviction to plea. Again for many reasons, but in particular, mandatory minimums and recidivist sentences can be a bitch. I can’t think of a defense attorney I know who would sit with a 25 year old facing life without the possibility of parole after trial who would not advise them to at least consider taking a deal that will allow them to one day see the outside of a prison, regardless of strength of the case. In the alternate, I’ve also advised clients with almost no chance of winning at trial to go for it because they were totally screwed either way so we might as well try for the Hail Mary.
“The very high statistical ratio of â€œpeople who leave their kids in a perfectly safe situation:people who are not sentenced to six months in jail as a result,”
If a person is being sentenced for a crime, it has already been determined – either by an admission via a plea or a trial – that the children involved were not in a perfectly safe situation. You can’t both plea to endangering a child and yet deny that the child was endangered. The fact that you, I and Lenore may believe that the child was in a perfectly safe situation is completely irrelevant to the equation. So we are not talking about the usual sentence for people who leave their kids in a perfectly safe situation, but the usual sentence of people convicted for endangering a child.
Further, the proper input is not all people who leave their kids in a perfectly safe situation, but people who leave their children in a perfectly safe situation who are then arrested since people who aren’t arrested have no usual sentence. They have no sentence at all. And this is not a group that doesn’t exist. Lenore has posted many stories of people arrested for their children playing safely in parks, walking safely home and sitting safely in cars. And those are just the ones the media reports. I’ve personally seen others who never made the paper.
It is impossible to give the usual sentence for ANY crime as sentencing is determined not just by the charge, but also the criminal history of the defendant. It is quite possible for one defendant to get 12 months probation, while another gets 6 months in jail and a third gets 12 months in jail for the same crime. And that doesn’t even consider the jurisdictional differences. I can get different sentences for the exact same defendant committing the exact same crime in each of the 6 different counties I am contracted to work in. Heck, I can probably get two different sentences in front of different judges in the same county.
The officer exhibited lack of judgement. He should have scolded the crazy lady who called the police.
“I assume that there was a significant chance of conviction because there was some meaningful element of putting the kids at risk”
Meaningful element of putting kids at risk to whom? Millions of people – some of whom are prosecutors, judges and jurors – believe that leaving a child alone in a car for even a second puts a child at risk. Most of us here disagree.
“That the person is guilty, and has received a just sentence, should be on the list of possibilities but you left it off. Soâ€¦ what led you to omit it?”
Because the only facts given to form the basis of the charge of reckless conduct were that a child was left alone in a car. Absolutely nothing else was said. If the reckless conduct charge was actually based on some other conduct – say it being a 100 degree day – then those facts would have to be stated.
See when a defendant pleads guilty to a charge, the judge must find a sufficient basis to believe the charged crime occurred and that this defendant did it. Either the ADA or the defendant (depending on jurisdiction) must state enough facts on the record during the guilty plea to allow the judge to make that determination. The judge can’t just infer that other facts must exist or the ADA would not have brought charges and the defendant would not be pleading guilty. The facts MUST be specifically stated. Since the only facts given were what I stated, both the ADA and the judge believed that the mere fact that a child (of an unspecified age) was in the car alone (for an unspecified amount of time) provides a sufficient basis for a conviction for reckless conduct.
Now I suppose that it is possible, albeit unlikely, that in this case there were many other facts that showed that the child was really at risk that the ADA just didn’t mention. It is still extremely scary that all the judge needed to accept a guilty plea for reckless conduct was a child alone in a car.
“One out of six, at best, only gets you a second trial.”
One out of six gives you, at best, the prosecutor taking a second look at their prosecutorial discretion. Enough of those where no conviction follows charges, and the discretion will change. At best. (I live in one of the states where convictions don’t have to be unanimous if the jury has 12 people in it.)
“I say at best as it is not uncommon at all for the one to join the five to resolve the case. juries get a pretty forceful â€œmake a damn decisionâ€ instruction from the judge before a hung jury is declared.”
It’s much more polite than that… more of “are you REALLY sure further deliberations won’t resolve the deadlock?” At least, it was in the very limited subset of jury deliberations I have knowledge of.
â€œ’I assume defendant was represented by counsel who knows how to negotiate a plea deal, who wouldnâ€™t have advised taking a plea deal with probation attached unless there was a high likelihood of conviction on the original charge,’
Well your first mistake is in assuming that the attorney advised the client to take the plea.”
Well, no, I haven’t made that mistake. I assume the lawyer advised the client on what the exact risks and benefits of each course of action would be. I was unclear in explaining what I understand of this topic; it’s already rather verbose and trying to cut down the volume of text leads to oversimplification.
“Whether to plea guilty or not is one of the extremely few decisions in a criminal case (there are really only 3)”
How to plea, whether or not to fire you, whether or not to testify? Or were you substituting whether to take the 5th for one of these?
“You have absolutely no idea whatsoever what the attorneyâ€™s advice was in this case.”
It was “if you contest the charge, here’s what will happen next. here’s the worst-case. Here’s the best case. Here’s what I actually expect. If you take the plea, here’s what will happen next.” Oh, and if the lawyer is privately retained, both forks will include “and this is what it will cost.”
“But yes many people plead guilty regardless of the likelihood of conviction for a myriad of reasons.”
What, in your estimation, is the ratio of people who plead guilty because they can’t win, even though they’re innocent, people who plead guilty because they can’t win, because they’re guilty and the prosecution can prove it, and innocent people who plead guilty even though they had a good chance of winning?
“Your second mistake is in assuming that only cases with a high likelihood of conviction are advised to plea. I often advise people with moderate and even low likelihoods of conviction to plea. Again for many reasons, but in particular, mandatory minimums and recidivist sentences can be a bitch.”
Yes, habitual criminal statutes have bite, and mandatory minimums are a wonderful tool for prosecutors to extract plea deals from… but… does either of these have relevance to the case at hand? I wasn’t explicit in assuming that nothing like this would apply, but that’s a fairly safe assumption? If this is this person’s third time up on abuse charges, I don’t blame them for taking a probation-only plea deal, but I also don’t have much sympathy, either. I kind of assumed a first-time offense.
“I canâ€™t think of a defense attorney I know who would sit with a 25 year old facing life without the possibility of parole after trial who would not advise them to at least consider taking a deal”
But, if they’re charged with a crime with a sentence of 25 to life, they’re not getting a 12-month probation on a plea deal, are they? So this is also not likely a factor in the case described.
“It is impossible to give the usual sentence for ANY crime”
Leaving your kids in a perfectly safe situation is not a crime. The proper sentence for not committing a crime is nil. Sometimes it takes acquittal to get to the proper sentence, but usually prosecutorial discretion takes care of it. Every day millions of Americans are not charged with a crime for leaving their kids in a perfectly safe situation. Alas, there are some who do not get the proper sentence, but by far the most common one, the usual one, is the proper one.
“If a person is being sentenced for a crime, it has already been determined â€“ either by an admission via a plea or a trial â€“ that the children involved were not in a perfectly safe situation.”
Agreed. Which is why one fork of your original statement… she’s getting a 12-month probation for leaving her kids in a perfectly safe situation… didn’t sound right. The alternative fork you offered… a 12-month probation because of making a mistake, sounds OK, if she took the deal and plead guilty to it. But it’s also possible that she got a 12-month probation because she had a 12-month probation coming as a completely fair and just outcome. I haven’t seen anything that would suggest this is not the most likely case.
“It is impossible to give the usual sentence for ANY crime”
Leaving your kids in a perfectly safe situation is not a crime. The proper sentence for not committing a crime is nil. Sometimes it takes acquittal to get to the proper sentence, but usually prosecutorial discretion takes care of it. Every day millions of Americans are not charged with a crime for leaving their kids in a perfectly safe situation. Alas, there are some who do not get the proper sentence, but by far the most common one, the usual one, is the proper one.
If you have more information about what the facts were, and what the evidence was, I’ll concede that it’s entirely possible these would reveal prosecutorial overreach. What you’ve provided doesn’t lead me to that conclusion, though.
In contrast, the prosecutors here did not charge the father who left his baby in the car, with fatal results. Accidental death, he’ll suffer enough on his own without the state needing to pile on.
“Meaningful element of putting kids at risk to whom? Millions of people â€“ some of whom are prosecutors, judges and jurors â€“ believe that leaving a child alone in a car for even a second puts a child at risk. Most of us here disagree.”
Both the prosecutor and the defense are paid, in part, to assess the likelihood of success of the prosecution. This means having an idea of how the local jury pool is likely to view things (ultimately, they’ll either find the facts are that child was in danger, or they won’t, if you go to trial… if you decide not to go to trial, there is, of course, absolutely no way to know how it would have come out.
The prosecution knows when it has an unwinnable case, and such a case will almost never see the light of day. Prosecutors are judged on conviction rate, so they don’t like to lose. On the other hand, the defense knows when they have a case they cannot win. In between, you have the wide range of cases that could go either way, with lawyers on both sides assessing the odds (and adjusting accordingly as the motion practice proceeds).
Criminal law is only slightly of interest to me… I didn’t even take Criminal Law, even though it’s a double bar course… but thank you for your time and effort in explaining things for me.
What can we do? Not sure – maybe pass a law that requires that at least one car window be left down at least one inch if children are in the car unattended? That would establish that it was okay to leave children in the car unattended.
James, you started out this thread looking pretty sensible, but you are ending it looking pretty ignorant.
Plenty of prosecutors worry about number of convictions rather than percentage of convictions. Enough low probability prosecutions still result in some convictions.
Most sensible, law abiding parents would likely take probation over a 5% risk of jail time. Going to trial, even if you are certain that you are in the right, generally entails a risk of more than 5%, due to the unpredictability of juries.
I think you would be extremely lucky to get a single free range parent in the jury pool, let alone on the jury. Most people in the jury pool are not parents at all, let alone free range parents.
“Plenty of prosecutors worry about number of convictions rather than percentage of convictions. Enough low probability prosecutions still result in some convictions.”
Spending your time on cases you’re very likely to win gets you more convictions than spending your time pursuing cases you’re not likely to win. Of course, if I can get the defendant to take a plea deal, that counts as a win for the prosecutor.
“Most sensible, law abiding parents would likely take probation over a 5% risk of jail time. Going to trial, even if you are certain that you are in the right, generally entails a risk of more than 5%, due to the unpredictability of juries.”
Is there a reason I should take your word for this, rather than continue to rely on people whose records and experiences, as prosecutors and defense lawyers… I know about?
“I think you would be extremely lucky to get a single free range parent in the jury pool, let alone on the jury.”
And I think that’s a ridiculous statement.
Here’s a case the prosecutor probably thought he was going to win:
A News of the Weird Classic (August 2010)
Mark Seamands, 39, went to trial in May (2010) in Port Angeles, Washington, accused of second-degree assault and two lesser charges for the hot-iron branding of his three children, aged 13, 15 and 18. Each of the kids bore the mark “SK,” for “Seamands’ Kids.” At trial, however, the kids testified that they not only consented to the branding but thought it was cool (despite the second-degree burns), and as a result, the jury dismissed the assault charge and deadlocked on the two lesser ones. [Associated Press via KIRO-TV (Seattle), 5-14-2010]
“If somebody canâ€™t see right off that wrangling three kids in a parking lot is way more dangerous than leaving them in the car while you pay, what could possibly convince them?”
It’s not just a parking lot, it’s a GAS STATION parking lot. Cars and trucks, on average, complete transactions with in minutes and this would be considered a heavily trafficked area with many blind spots for drivers who are commonly in a rush, as they are running low on gas. Drivers often cannot see small children because of their distinct disadvantage of being shorter than most cars and SUVs.
My husband works in the automotive industry and can share many stories of accidents in parking lots of gas stations (many more where there’s a convenience store with the gas station). They are not only dangerous for children to walk across but also for adults, especially those not paying attention and cars speeding for parking spots. Staying in a car is such a safer choice.
James your post barely made any sense so we will leave it at that. I will answer:
“How to plea, whether or not to fire you, whether or not to testify? Or were you substituting whether to take the 5th for one of these?”
How to plea, whether to assert the 5th (which includes the decision to testify) and whether to have a bench or jury trial.
I only do appointed criminal work so my clients only have the ability to “fire” me if they hire someone else, not a realistic option for 99% of my clients. That said, you are correct, I did forget a 4th decision (because it is largely made before I enter the case) – criminal defendants do get to choose whether to retain counsel or represent themselves.
Attention on children sitting in cars distracts from the real danger to children: Eating and playing, particularly for children under 5.
o Choking is the fourth leading cause of death in children under the age of 5.
o Children under age 5 are at greatest risk for choking injury and death.
o Toys, household items, and foods can all be a choking hazard.
o The most common cause of nonfatal choking in young children is food.
o Each month, 6 children die from choking and 830 go to emergency rooms.
The statistics are compelling. If you can’t watch your children continuously, then either tie them up or lock them in your car. They will be safer than in the brutal environment of what social workers call “the amateur home”.
As a compromise, stop giving your children food and toys. They will hate you, and there will be tricky emotional problems, but at least they will be alive.
James, in rereading your post now that I am fully awake:
“What, in your estimation, is the ratio of people who plead guilty because they canâ€™t win, even though theyâ€™re innocent, people who plead guilty because they canâ€™t win, because theyâ€™re guilty and the prosecution can prove it, and innocent people who plead guilty even though they had a good chance of winning?”
I don’t really understand what you are asking here. Are you asking what percentage of my clients tell me that they are innocent and then plea guilty. 100% of those who plea guilty (and I am only being slightly facetious). The majority of my clients profess innocence to a certain extent to their grave.
Are you asking what percentage of my clients are truly guilty? How the heck am I supposed to know that? The only way to know the answer to that question is for me to be a witness to the crime and that kinda removes me from also being the defendant’s attorney.
I don’t function in a world of guilt or innocence. It is completely irrelevant to me. In fact, definitively knowing my client’s guilt handcuffs my representation of them somewhat. My sole consideration is likelihood of winning at trial.
Now if you are asking the ratio of cases that plea out that I had a high likelihood of winning vs ones I had a high likelihood of losing regardless of guilt or innocence, I can’t answer that in simple terms. This is largely a function of jurisdiction. The competency of the police force and DAs office determines the answer. In my home county, I get very few cases that have a high likelihood of winning. The police force is very competent, thorough and only brings charges it thinks it can win and the DAs office is very experienced and reasonable. Most of my current cases are winnable, but none are slam dunks for us.
In the county I have worked in for most of my criminal career, I have a much higher percentage of cases that have a high likelihood of winning. The various police forces are largely incompetent, at best, and corrupt, at worst, with the exception of one. The DA is completely unreasonable. She is also miserable to work for, and as a result, the only people who will work for her are fresh out of law school and not particularly adept at evaluating or trying cases. But, most of these cases still plea out because the DAs office tries to make up for the incompetence by slamming every recidivist and sentence enhancement it can onto any defendant that goes to trial and the judges are off the chain and revel in screwing anyone who loses.
The other counties I predominantly work in fall somewhere between these two extremes to various degrees.
Here’s a case you wouldn’t expect the prosecution to lose. A woman parked her pickup truck on a road in Ohio for longer than 24 hours. The village had an ordinance reading, in park:
“any motor vehicle camper, trailer, farm implement and/or non-motorized vehicle.”
The import of the ordinance was that everything listed couldn’t be parked for more than 24 hours on a road.
She was convicted, but her conviction was vacated by the Ohio Supreme Court on appeal since the court ruled that the law didn’t apply to motor vehicles, only to ‘motor vehicle campers,’ whatever those might be.
motor vehicle camper is an motorhome of any size, and I assume it is worded that way to include conversion vans.
Actually Warren I just read about that case today! It was a drafting error and there should have been a comma between motor vehicle and camper. The legislation/ordinance went through with no comma and the person was ticketed for leaving a truck outside. The government tried to argue that the absent comma was an oversight and that the law should be interpreted as they intended it to be, rather than what was written. The person lost at the local level and appealed it and won.
A hard-fought victory for punctuation!
Thanks. I was assuming during the drafting, they were trying to cover every vehicle, other than personal daily vehicles. There are jurisdictions that do that, to keep people from using the streets as driveway overflow. Thanks for the update.
Interesting – so this law would technically have criminalized my grandparents, apparently. After retirement they spent most of their time at a retirement community that consisted mostly of motor-homes. Theirs was parked in a permanent spot with landscaping, a deck, etc. So I guess when my sister and I hung out inside reading books in the bedroom section of the camper while my grandma gardened just outside, we were endangered. Sigh. . .
“so this law would technically have criminalized my grandparents, apparently.”
No, it wouldn’t.
Parking on (public) roadways is different than parking on private land. Many communities impose a time limit on how long a vehicle may be parked on the road without some kind of special permission. This has been a challenge for a special category of motor vehicle locally… food trucks. There are a couple of “pods” of food trucks, where the same truck stays parked in the same place all the time. This has the nearby restaurants bothered, because food trucks are regulated differently than are permanent restaurants, but a food truck that doesn’t move IS (they say) a permanent restaurant.
The CCR in my neighborhood prohibits parking an RV where it can be seen clearly from the street. This restriction is not enforced, AFAIK.
Seems like there is a disconnect here. On the one hand, parents are told “Take your kids out into the traffic!” as in this case. On the other, we are told “Never take your kids into traffic!” as in the case with the woman dropped off by the bus in the middle of the block with her 4 kids, groceries and the wrong side of the street from her apartment.
Me, I ALWAYS left my kids in the car when paying for gas inside. One of my three was a runner and I only had two hands.
Well I don’t know if I’m missing the Elephant in the room, or not.
The woman in the story is a nanny.
The complainant is…………some other who maybe has a bias against that.
Nannies are traditionally – subordinant ( to some people.)
What kind of people?
The kind of people who would make a mountain out of a molehill, now, wouldn’t they?
Which maybe fits a pattern, I don’t know.
As long as kids are spending their lives in cars (far more than my generation ever did)
then automobilia (otherwise know as somebody’s fair nation) had better get its head of out (you know where)
and figure out some sensible protocols pretty quick –
or the nation will ‘drive’ itself to insanity.
So a panda walks into a bar…
“Fear is not something I know.” – Warren (last name unknown)
You’re a liar and you’re stupid, Warren.
Okay, what proof do you have of either of your accusations. With nothing to back up your claims, you are nothing more than a coward trying to provoke someone you don’t know, over the internet.
Makes you a coward and a joke. Thanks for playing little man.
Yeah, I live near there, and while my kids are a little older now, one of them is scared of being left in a car because a cop berated me for similar a couple years ago. It is ridiculous, but most people just say “you shouldn’t have done that, don’t do it again if you want to keep your kids.” Discouraging.
Someone told me she heard that this will be the first generation of kids who doesn’t live longer than their parents – because they aren’t ever allowed to go out and play. (I know a car isn’t “out to play” but the fear-based hysteria is the same.)
I think it’s more likely that this generation will fail to outlive its parents because of the increase in soda consumption, but not going out to play will surely play a role also.
I actually thought about this yesterday, and wondered if I were going to be targeted as I left my two kids (3 and 5) in the car to grab a couple of drinks from the gas station. The car was right outside the door and I had visual contact the whole time, but there ended up being a huge really slow lineup (lottery tickets) and it took several minutes to get our apple juices.
The most danger the kids were in was from me, as I could see them hitting each other the whole time.
It’s strange to me that people can’t see the difference in situations. A car pulled up to a gas pump is obviously there to pump gas, and you can easily conclude the person missing is inside paying. No one ever abandons their car and children at the actual pump.
Children locked alone in a car in the middle of a huge parking lot, yes, that could possibly be a concern. But a gas station or a convenience store, no. Even a grocery store parking lot isn’t that huge, not like a mall parking lot. It’s obvious where the parent is at that point, and it’s easy to find that person instead of calling the police. Unless the children are in distress (crying, fighting, sick), there’s no need to intervene.
This definitely seems like a situation where people don’t have “real” crime, so they have to find something to get worked up about.
AmyO – but that would involve thinking, not flying into a moral panic. The latter is more enjoyable and rewarding.
My thoughts about the kids & gas station thing is, it’s safer to leave kids LOCKED in a car while running in, then try to get everyone out and inside safely. Think about it, how dangerous are parking lots for kids? Cars backing up, pulling in & out, no ones really paying attention, etc. gas stations are just too busy and confined an area to be dragging kids in and out of cars.
And we hear about kids over heating all the time. We really need some perspective there as well. A fall New England day is not a hot Arizona day. If you had the windows cracked down in the Fall it would be bad because it’s too cold. But if you left them up, they’d say you were overheating them.
Bottom line is parents should be allowed to have discretion.
It just occurred to me that maybe sometimes people are afraid that unsupervised young children will get out of the car and be in danger in a parking lot rather than are afraid of them being in the car, hot or not, alone. Come to think of it, if I saw children aged, say, six and under in a car with no parent in sight, I would wait and watch out for them for that reason alone.
@Freedom for Kids, but maybe the parent has a taught her kid(s), practiced with them, and they have proved that they can wait in the car during a brief errand without getting out, thus earning her trust. Does that parent really need you second-guessing that decision, which was not made lightly nor without planning, by standing guard? You don’t know those kids at all.
With modern child safety seats, I have zero concern about the kid getting out of the vehicle…except in so far as their not being able to get out. To think a 6 year old would go darting across a parking lot is pretty insulting. My neighbor’s boy was a persistent darter always running into the street. He stopped that to the point of being totally trustworthy before he turned 4.
If the child was prone to inappropriately getting out, the parents would have found out from them inappropriately getting out of their car seat while the car was in motion. And since driving around with the kid unbuckled is a crime in addition to a hazard, and since you can now get a 5pt harness for seats that can take 4’9″ and 110lbs, I expect the vast majority of parents have the child as restrained as the child needs to be to protect them from the hazards of moving cars.
I might be concerned if I spotted a young child alone and out of their 5pt harness, depending on circumstances. But a 6yr old in a lap positioning booster seat would not concern me at all. I actually think I spotted such a child last month. (The child was calm, the windows were all the way down, the location indicated a quick trip, and the car was next to the curb so the child could safely get out and get to the parent if needed.) Aside from the safety of a booster seat, it was no different than I remember being left as early as age 3. I said a quick prayer that no one would call the cops on that parent for that safe situation, and drove on.
I would just watch, not judge, but keep an eye out to be sure. I think it doesn’t hurt to look out for others. I wasn’t imagining a six year old “darting” out of the car exactly, but if we all agree that a mother walking her kids across a busy gas station parking lot is more dangerous than leaving the children in the car for a few minutes while she goes in to pay for gas, for example, imagine if little short, hard to see kids try to walk themselves across the lot without her. Yes, I would unapologetically watch, kindly and from a distance, and then move on once mother returned.
CONTACT Info: This is directly from the official Brecksville website. If you would like to contact police via email to air your thoughts: email@example.com
For those who prefer ink and paper:
Brecksville Police Dept
9069 Brecksville Road
Brecksville, OH 44141
@Freedom, then it basically seems like you are saying that you care more about those kids than the parents who have raised them from birth. Wrong.
One minute we’re talking about being community-minded and looking out for one another’s children, and the next we’re saying we should mind our own business at all times.
I’ve become weary of reading here.