Civil Liberties

Mom Gets Out of Car to Smoke, Is Arrested for Leaving Kids Unattended

Nearby store employees see the children as "unattended."


Chirag Rathod / Flickr

A mom is in the parking lot with her three tots in the car. She wants to smoke a cigarette so she actually gets out of the car—that's how conscientious she is—and lights up.

Nearby store employees see the children as "unattended." And that is when the cops get involved, of course. As reports:

Det. Mike Whitlow said Courtney B. Tabor, 33, was charged with three misdemeanor counts of leaving a minor child unattended, a city ordinance violation.

Whitlow said employees at the Michael's store at Hudson Plaza on North Glynn Street saw the three small children in the back of a van with no adult visible in the vicinity. Two of the children were one year of age while the other was age two, Whitlow added.

Whitlow said the car was running but the air conditioner was not. [Note: Other accounts dispute this.]

Police were subsequently called to the scene, Whitlow said. Once officers in a patrol unit arrived, Tabor approached the vehicle, telling officers she was in the vicinity smoking a cigarette.

Whitlow noted that while Tabor might have been in close proximity, she did not appear to have been focused enough to notice the store's employees standing by her vehicle.

Whitlow added that, in this particular case, it was not as much a matter of the young children being in a hot car, rather it was the potential for harm or kidnapping that could result from leaving them unattended.

As radio host Michael Graham, who called this case to my attention, put it:

OK, OK, I get it: My mom and dad, who left my sister and I in the West Columbia, SC, K-Mart parking lot while they went into shop should have been beheaded by the Taliban for the crime of child abandonment. OK, fine.

And yes–leaving kids in a hot car with the windows up in 90 degree heat is both stupid and dangerous. I absolutely agree with that.

But is Riverdale, GA really going to put a mom in jail for standing near her car, smoking a cigarette?


In a country that believes in arresting parents for theoretical far-fetched horrors, yes. Leaving your kids for even a few minutes is a crime. Even if you are nearby. Even if you are consciously uncoupled from them so they don't inhale secondhand smoke. Any second you are not fully and completely "focused" on them, you are committing a crime. Clearly your kids are at huge risk of the boogeyman kidnapping, in a public place, during store hours.