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When is an accident a crime and when should parents be charged?

When is an accident a crime and when should parents be charged?

Web-based CDC Injury Survey and Reporting System (WISQARS) list unintentional injuries (accidents) as the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in most age groups. .

The only exception is for children under 12 months, for whom accidents are the fifth leading cause of death. At this age, birth defects, premature birth, maternal complications of pregnancy and SIDS are greater than accidents as a cause of death. However, 1,168 children under the age of 12 months died in accidents in 2018..

A crime against an accident

But when an unintentional injury occurs, such as a car accident, a drowning , a fall or a shooting is a murder and not just an accident?

When these incidents are reported, they are generally described as tragic accidents. You don’t often hear a parent accused of a murder. It still happens.

A famous incident involved Raquel Nelson in Marietta, Georgia. Her 4-year-old son was beaten and killed while crossing the night in the middle of a crowded street with her three children. They had just got off a city bus and were crossing with other people, because the nearest pedestrian crossing was a third of a kilometer away, and their apartment complex was opposite the bus station.

Raquel Nelson was initially charged with reckless conduct, crossing a street outside a pedestrian crossing and killing vehicles in the second degree, endangering her for a total of three years in prison. Meanwhile, Jerry Guy, the driver of the car, was eventually charged with the escape and spent six months in prison.

The case has been the subject of much controversy. Some people were outraged that the mother who lost her son could spend more time in prison than the driver who had drunk earlier that day and killed her son. Other groups, such as the NAACP, criticized the fact that few middle-class white jurors had used public transportation and probably did not understand Nelson’s options as a single black mother driving her three children home at night. .

As Raquel Nelson’s charges were all misdemeanors, the court was allowed to exercise discretion. After years of legal struggles, Nelson struck a deal with the Cobb County Prosecutor’s Office. She did not challenge the reckless toll and paid a fine of $ 200, and the other fees were waived.

A case in Antioch, California, also led to a lighter sentence at the judge’s discretion. Lindsey Ann Isch received four years of probation and community service instead of incarceration after being convicted of killing the vehicle while intoxicated, drunk driving with injuries and endangering a child after suffered an accident that killed his 1 – year – old son in 2009.

Something similar happened to Jessica Holmes of Chandler, Oklahoma, who received a suspended sentence after being charged and convicted of second-degree murder after forgetting the 2-year-old daughter of her roommate in the car in place to leave it in the nursery.

Other expenses

Many other allegations have been made against mothers associated with children in hot cars, although they have not received as much attention as the case of Raquel Nelson. They include:

  • A mother in Brownsville, Texas, who is accused of murder after her 3-year-old son got into an old truck outside her home and died after sitting in the hot car for at least two hours.
  • A mother near Palmview, Texas, who is accused of murder after her 18-month-old son died after being accidentally left in a hot car for about two hours.
  • A North Virginia mother who was charged with murder and child neglect after her son, who was nearly 3 years old, died in his hot car after she forgot to drop him off at kindergarten.
  • Two mothers from Louisville, Kentucky, whose children were fortunately rescued before sitting in their hot cars for too long.

However, it is not only mothers who are accused. The father and grandfather of a 4-year-old boy who drowned in Wyoming were charged with aggravated murder after their canoe crashed and overturned. In addition to drinking, the men were warned to go canoeing on the river.

Some of these cases highlight an important difference between an accident and a crime. The two mothers who bought intentionally left their children, one who was only 4 weeks old, in a hot car, with the windows open and the air conditioning off. They knew their children were in the car, and they should have known they were in danger of heat. Men in canoes drink alcohol and ignored a warning.

And Virginia’s case? And in this case, there seem to be some additional circumstances that may be relevant. It appears he previously left his son in the car outside of work in January, but was discovered about half an hour later when his healthcare provider called to ask if he would come that day.

And the two cases in South Texas? The allegations appear to be related to the fact that mothers lost track of their young children for several hours. A similar argument was used by the Las Vegas deputy prosecutor, where a mother was recently sentenced to 24 and 60 months after her 2-year-old son drowned in a backyard pool, saying “an accident is when a mother loses track of a child for five minutes, not five hours. «

But it takes much less than five minutes for a child to drown, fall out the window, or find a locked weapon, so why should that be a criterion for determining whether an accident is caused by negligence? ?


These cases raise many questions. Why are some parents charged with crimes after accidents when many others are not? Why do only a few types of accidents seem to trigger charges? What is the point of accusing parents of a crime after an accident?

Negligence, commonly defined as «failure to exercise care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in similar circumstances», is one of the factors commonly used to determine whether something is more than an accident. Unfortunately, people have different ideas about what negligence is. Many parents find it careless to have a pool without a fence or to have a loaded weapon in the house, while others do not think twice about these dangers.

However, the biggest discussion should probably be about how to reduce them accidents and tragedies . Spread the word about insuring weapons blocks cars so that children can not enter and die in the heat, the importance to protect children’s house and pool, wearing protective guards and carrying children wearing life jackets approved by the Coast Guard when they are close to the water and do not know to swim , etc.