The day I left my son in the car

At the same time, I didn’t really understand the legal context of what was happening

“I don’t get it,” I said to the lawyer. “Contributing to the delinquency of a minor? That makes no sense. It sounds like I was buying him beer.”

He laughed. He told me he understood my confusion about the charge, but that it wasn’t that unusual. A few years before, the state had tried to pass an ordinance that would make it a misdemeanor to leave a child under 6 alone in a vehicle if the conditions within the vehicle or in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle presented a risk to the health or safety of the child. The penalty for a first offense would be a $100 civil penalty, in other words, a ticket. But the legislation didn’t pass, and so instead, the act of leaving a kid in a car would continue to fall into a legal gray area. The lawyer explained that the crime of contributing to the delinquency of a minor included “rendering a minor in need of services.” So, for example, he said, “If you’d left him there and not come back, someone from social services would have needed to come, bring him in, make sure he was safe and such.”

“But I did come back. I came back after a few minutes.”

“A gray area,” he repeated. Then he went on to remind me that in my case, it wasn’t just that I’d left him, but that someone had seen me do it and stood there and recorded it and called the cops and given them the video.

“A good samaritan,” I said. “They couldn’t have just confronted me directly?”