I Never Knew This Was a Felony . . .

24 Sep

Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

This post is not strictly from my Christian background, but more from my background as a parent, and a person in my 50’s who has watched society shift a lot during my lifetime.

There are few things as heartbreaking as when a child dies due to an accident caused by a parent.  Who among us hasn’t shuddered hearing about a parent who backed over a child while leaving a driveway . . . a child who was supposed to be in the house at the time.

Or the ever-growing number of parents who accidentally leave their infants in rear-facing carseats for an entire summer’s day after thinking they dropped them at a daycare, only to find them when they leave work, dead of dehydration or heat stroke.

When I was younger, this event would not have happened, as children were not only allowed to sit in the front seat in a carseat, but they also were allowed to face forward anywhere in the car.

I understand why the changes have been made, for safety’s sake, but, as we say in the military, there are second and third order effects for every decision and . . . the children who fall asleep and are accidentally left in cars are a pretty gruesome second order effect to the change of seating arrangements.

Some zealous people who believe that actions should be punished even when not accompanied by evil intent have called for parents to be jailed when their children die due to such accidents.  Most of us just take in a long, loud breath when we hear this idea, saying, “This parent will already be mentally imprisoned for the rest of his life due to the loss of the child” and “There but for the grace of God go I” (if we are honest).

Now there comes another, related situation in which there is intent (not evil, but just misguided) that leads to an action with no harm to the child.

I am talking about cases where parents leave children in a car for a few minutes while they dash into a store.

I am not going to address the local case of a parent who did that and came out to find the car stolen.  That parent left the car unlocked and running and probably should be charged with something, or at least enrolled in some parenting classes.  We can’t legislate common sense, but maybe we can cause a person who lacks it to suffer some consequences . . .

I will only address those cases where no harm results.

I am talking about the case where a parent has a sleeping infant in a car and makes the decision, ill-advised but not ill-intended, to leave that child asleep while quickly trekking into the store for a bottle of milk.

A friend of ours did that about a month ago and is now charged with a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.  He took the baby to the doctor, because his wife was ill, and stopped to get milk on the way home.

I am not sure how hot it was that day nor whether he left the car locked and running.

I do know that our friend is a professional and a good father and . . . he made a critical miscalculation.  His life has been on the verge of ruin since he came out of that store and saw the police waiting for him.

He could lose five years of his life.  He could be branded a felon.  He could lose his voting rights and find it almost impossible to get a job, ever again.

And he and his wife have several little children.  Little children over whom they have already had to appear before the CPS, to convince them that they should not lose custody of their little family.

Maybe a few people are saying, “Well, good!” at this point, but I will wager the majority of us are not.  Most of us could see ourselves making similar ill-advised decisions.

There is no perfect parent.  We all get tired and rushed and preoccupied and we all make less-than-wonderful decisions at some point.

I am just amazed that this one has become a felony.

The point of my post is to warn others.

And to express my sadness that mistakes that do not result in harm to a child could be so severely punished.

This is not the world into which I was born.  Some things are much better now (racial relations, for one).  But the constantly increasing list of things that can be regarded as felonies is not.

It used to be that you had to have ill intent in your heart to commit a felony.

Not anymore, apparently.  Beware, folks.

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4 Responses to “I Never Knew This Was a Felony . . .”

  1. andi September 24, 2012 at 8:19 AM #

    Wow. That’s just crazy. 😦 I know people who’ve done much worse(intentionally) and still somehow have custody of their kids.

  2. Heather (@HeatherYt) September 24, 2012 at 5:40 PM #

    Oh…how awful 😦 to think of tax dollars being spent to imprison a Father who, at worst (imho), made a poor judgement call when we have criminals being released early due to the economic strain…just doesn’t make sense. May our Lord shower His mercy and grace on their situation.

  3. Megan September 24, 2012 at 5:48 PM #

    Our car doors won’t lock if the car is running, so it would never be a safe thing for us to do, but I had no idea it was a felony! Wow. Not that I ever have, but if the child was sleeping and the car was running and cooled down and locked and I was still able to see the car from a store window, I can see myself doing this.

    • Mary Gardner Martin September 24, 2012 at 6:54 PM #

      Megan, here is a spoiler for tomorrow’s post. I actually did this once when Joey was a lot older and was confronted for it by someone who, thankfully, did not call the police. Stay tuned . . .

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