Leaving Your Child In The Car For 5 Minutes Should Not Be A Crime

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I just cannot get on board with this one. Can anyone truly say with a straight face that they think a 4-year old locked in a car on a day with mild temperatures for five minutes while his mom runs a quick errand is in imminent danger? Like, enough danger to warrant his mother being arrested and sentenced to community service? Has the whole world gone mad that this is even an issue?

According to our friends at The Daily Mail, it absolutely has and it absolutely is. Kim Brooks was on her way to the airport for a 2.5 hour flight with her 4-year old son. She knew they would need a set of headphones so the child could entertain himself during the flight but realized before setting off that his were broken. She made a quick decision that would change the course of her life for the next two years. From The Daily Mail:

 “I took a deep breath. I looked at the  clock. For the next four or five seconds, I did what it sometimes seems I’ve  been doing every  minute of every day since having children, a constant,  never-ending  risk-benefit analysis.

‘I  noted that it was a mild, overcast,  50-degree day. I noted how close the parking spot was to the front door, and  that there were a few other  cars nearby.

‘I visualized  how quickly, unencumbered by a  tantrumming four-year-old, I would be,  running into the store, grabbing a pair  of child headphones. And then I  did something I’d never done before.

‘I left him. I told him I’d be right  back. I  cracked the windows and child-locked the doors and  double-clicked my keys so  that the car alarm was set. And then I left  him in the car for about five  minutes.

‘He didn’t die. He wasn’t kidnapped or  assaulted or forgotten or dragged across state lines by a carjacker.

‘When I returned to the car, he was still  playing his game, smiling, or more  likely smirking at having gotten what he  wanted from his spineless mama. I tossed the headphones onto the passenger seat  and put the keys in the ignition.”

This is not a mother leaving her child for an hour so she can stroll through Target or get her grocery shopping done. This is not a mother who left her child in the car in horribly hot weather without any fresh air. This is not a mother who left her child in a dangerous neighborhood. She was in and out and when she got back, all was well. Or at least she thought.

Apparently, some lovely citizen with a camera phone documented the entire incident on film and reported her to law enforcement afterward. By the time the cops tracked her license plate number and figured out who she was, she was just returning from her trip. A police cruiser was in her mother’s driveway when she got home from taking Brooks to the airport. Brooks ended up hiring a lawyer, whom she thought smoothed things with the officer, but nine months later, it still was not over. It turns out, as another police officer called to inform her, there was a warrant out for her arrest.

In the time since that call, the case went to court and her lawyer advised her to plead guilty as this could end with her kids potentially being taken away from her. The prosecuter ended up issuing a continuance and agreeing that they would not pursue charges as long as Kim completed 100 hours of community service, which she did.

I am honestly flabbergasted and enraged over this. While I agree that in this day and age, it is probably not wise to leave your young child unattended in your car (mostly, due to “good samaritans” who might decide to report you to CPS) I in no way think this woman deserved what she got. 100 hours of community service?! There are rapists who walk with less of a punishment (if any punishment at all). There are parents everywhere treating their children horribly- not feeding them enough, beating them, not taking them to a doctor when they are sick- and tax payer money was actually spent on making this woman do 100 hours of community service for five minutes in the car? I am stunned.

There are so many things wrong in this world that deserve our thoughts, our attention and our activism. I simply do not think that energy should be wasted on one case of not-so-great judgement from an otherwise, good and loving mother. Leaving your child in the car for five minutes is not a crime. I will never be convinced otherwise.

(Image: altanaka/Shutterstock)