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Will the New Jersey Supreme Court make a new crime?

Most people in New Jersey recognize that it is legislators who are responsible for passing laws that criminalize certain behaviors. It is then the executive branch's responsibility to enforce those laws and the judicial branch's job to interpret those laws. This system of government, however, does have certain issues, such as the fact that the New Jersey Supreme Court has the ability to decide if certain actions actually constitute crimes under ambiguous laws.

A New Jersey mother has been convicted of reckless endangerment after a court found she had abused her child by leaving him or her alone in a car for five or ten minutes. She has appealed her conviction and it is now up to the state Supreme Court to determine if someone should face criminal charges for leaving a child in a car.

There is considerable debate about whether this constitutes abuse, both inside and outside the court. Many parents recognize that leaving a child in a car, even for the short amount of time that this mother did, is bad parenting. Of course, something terrible could happen (though it did not in this case), but should that be a crime? Does that reach the level of child abuse?

Many people in New Jersey make mistakes, but just because they have made mistakes does not mean they should be criminally punished for them. Unfortunately, with the law written the way it is, it is now up to the New Jersey Supreme Court to determine whether legislators meant to criminalize such actions when it passed the law on child abuse.

Source: CBS Philadelphia, "NJ Supreme Court To Decide If Leaving Child In Car Is Bad Parenting Or Criminal," Jim Melwert, July 24, 2014

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