Leaving Sleeping Child in Vehicle Results in Criminal Charges for Princeton Woman
Criminal charges were filed against a Princeton woman, Kyeongsoo Shin, after she left a 23 month old sleeping baby in her vehicle while she shopped at the Macys at Bridgewater Commons. At approximately 5:45 p.m., a customer reported to mall security that she saw a child in the car. Shin returned to the car at approximately 6:25 p.m. These types of cases, where parents leave children in vehicles, often result in very serious criminal charges against the parent that expose the parent to significant prison terms in addition to the possible loss of the child. Therefore, any parent charged with abandoning a child or endangering the welfare of a child should contact a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer for representation.
Generally, the crime of endangering the welfare of a child is used to charge individuals who debauch the morals of a child by exposing the child to sexual activity. However, the statute can also be applied to situations where a person puts a child in a situation that can result in injury to the child. Specifically, N.J.S. 2C:24-4 provides: “Any person having a legal duty for the care of a child or who has assumed responsibility for the care of a child who engages in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child, or who causes the child harm that would make the child an abused or neglected child is guilty of a crime of the second degree. Any other person who engages in conduct or who causes harm as described in this subsection to a child under the age of 16 is guilty of a crime of the third degree.
Therefore, in the Shin case, Ms. Shin can be charged with second degree endangering the welfare of the child, because as the child’s mother, Ms. Shin had a legal duty for the care of the child. In order for the State to prevail however, the State would have to prove that Ms. Shin’s conduct caused the child to be an abused or neglected child as defined in N.J.S. 9:6-1, N.J.S. 9:6-3, and N.J.S. N.J.S. 9:6-8.21. Under N.J.S. 9:6-1, “Abuse of a child shall consist in any of the following acts: (a) disposing of the custody of a child contrary to law; (b) employing or permitting a child to be employed in any vocation or employment injurious to its health or dangerous to its life or limb, or contrary to the laws of this State; (c) employing or permitting a child to be employed in any occupation, employment or vocation dangerous to the morals of such child; (d) the habitual use by the parent or by a person having the custody and control of a child, in the hearing of such child, of profane, indecent or obscene language; (e) the performing of any indecent, immoral or unlawful act or deed, in the presence of a child, that may tend to debauch or endanger or degrade the morals of the child; (f) permitting or allowing any other person to perform any indecent, immoral or unlawful act in the presence of the child that may tend to debauch or endanger the morals of such child; (g) using excessive physical restraint on the child under circumstances which do not indicate that the child’s behavior is harmful to himself, others or property; or (h) in an institution as defined in 9:6-8.21, willfully isolating the child from ordinary social contact under circumstances which indicate emotional or social deprivation.”
“Abandonment of a child shall consist in any of the following acts by anyone having the custody or control of the child: (a) willfully forsaking a child; (b) failing to care for and keep the control and custody of a child so that the child shall be exposed to physical or moral risk without proper and sufficient protection; (c) failing to care for and keep the control and custody of a child so that the child shall be liable to be supported and maintained at the expense of the public, or by child caring societies or private persons not legally chargeable with its or their care, custody and control.” “Cruelty to a child shall consist in any of the following acts: (a) inflicting unnecessarily severe corporal punishment upon a child; (b) inflicting upon a child unnecessary suffering or pain, either mental or physical; (c) habitually tormenting, vexing or afflicting a child; (d) any willful act of omission or commission whereby unnecessary pain and suffering, whether mental or physical, is caused or permitted to be inflicted on a child; (e) or exposing a child to unnecessary hardship, fatigue or mental or physical strains that may tend to injure the health or physical or moral well-being of such child.” “Neglect of a child shall consist in any of the following acts, by anyone having the custody or control of the child: (a) willfully failing to provide proper and sufficient food, clothing, maintenance, regular school education as required by law, medical attendance or surgical treatment, and a clean and proper home, or (b) failure to do or permit to be done any act necessary for the child’s physical or moral well-being. Neglect also means the continued inappropriate placement of a child in an institution, as defined in section 9:6-8.21(C. 9:6-8.21), with the knowledge that the placement has resulted and may continue to result in harm to the child’s mental or physical well-being.”
Under N.J.S. 9:6-3 “Any parent, guardian or person having the care, custody or control of any child, who shall abuse, abandon, be cruel to or neglectful of such child, or any person who shall abuse, be cruel to or neglectful of any child shall be deemed to be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree. If a fine be imposed, the court may direct the same to be paid in whole or in part to the parent, or to the guardian, custodian or trustee of such minor child or children; provided, however, that whenever in the judgment of the court it shall appear to the best interest of the child to place it in the temporary care or custody of a society or corporation, organized or incorporated under the laws of this State, having as one of its objects the prevention of cruelty to children, and the society or corporation is willing to assume such custody and control, the court may postpone sentence and place the child in the custody of such society or corporation, and may place defendant on probation, either with the county probation officers or an officer of the society or corporation to which the child is ordered, and may order the parent, guardian or person having the custody and control of such child to pay to such society or corporation a certain stated sum for the maintenance of such child. When, however, a child is so placed in the custody of such society or corporation, and defendant fails to make the payments as ordered by the court, the court shall cause the arrest and arraignment before it of such defendant, and shall impose upon the defendant the penalty provided in this section.”
Finally, under N.J.S. 9:6-8.21, “abused or neglected child means a child less than 18 years of age whose parent or guardian, as herein defined, (1) inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon such child physical injury by other than accidental means which causes or creates a substantial risk of death, or serious or protracted disfigurement, or protracted impairment of physical or emotional health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ; (2) creates or allows to be created a substantial or ongoing risk of physical injury to such child by other than accidental means which would be likely to cause death or serious or protracted disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ; (3) commits or allows to be committed an act of sexual abuse against the child; (4) or a child whose physical, mental, or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as the result of the failure of his parent or guardian, as herein defined, to exercise a minimum degree of care (a) in supplying the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, medical or surgical care though financially able to do so or though offered financial or other reasonable means to do so, or (b) in providing the child with proper supervision or guardianship, by unreasonably inflicting or allowing to be inflicted harm, or substantial risk thereof, including the infliction of excessive corporal punishment; or by any other acts of a similarly serious nature requiring the aid of the court; (5) or a child who has been willfully abandoned by his parent or guardian, as herein defined; (6) or a child upon whom excessive physical restraint has been used under circumstances which do not indicate that the child’s behavior is harmful to himself, others or property; (7) or a child who is in an institution and (a) has been placed there inappropriately for a continued period of time with the knowledge that the placement has resulted or may continue to result in harm to the child’s mental or physical well-being or (b) who has been willfully isolated from ordinary social contact under circumstances which indicate emotional or social deprivation. A child shall not be considered abused or neglected pursuant to paragraph (7) of subsection c. of this section if the acts or omissions described therein occur in a day school as defined in this section.”
If the State can prove that leaving the child in a vehicle satisfies any of these definitions of an abused or neglected child, then a parent can be convicted of a second degree crime for endangering the welfare of a child. Second degree crimes are very serious in that they carry a presumption of imprisonment (meaning anyone convicted will almost certainly go to prison), with a prison term between 5 and 10 years. Therefore, anyone charged with endangering the welfare of a child or any other criminal offense in New Jersey should contact a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer for representation.