An Orlando mother is facing charges after her car was stolen with her two-month-old son in the back seat.
Family members told a FOX affiliate that Whitlene Loussaint left her son in her idling car while she went into the house to get an umbrella. In that time, her silver Pontiac was stolen.
Police recovered the car, and the baby was found unharmed.
But the story doesn’t end there. Under a new law signed into effect on July 1 by Florida Governor Charlie Crist, leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is a second-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, Loussaint could face a $500 fine and 60 days in prison.
FNC wants to know what YOU think — Should parents face criminal charges for leaving their kids in the car unattended … even for a short time? E-mail us at email@example.com!
Here is what FOX Fans are saying:
“I think people who leave their kids in the car while they go shopping should be prosecuted, but not a mother who left for a minute to get an umbrella. If it was pouring then the child would have gotten soaked (and maybe sick) in the process of removing him. Besides, isn't it the fault of the thief who stole the car that the child was put in danger? The way I see it is that there is the letter of the law, and the grace of the law. I think it's pretty clear that this woman isn't a bad mother.” — Garrick (New Jersey)
“If they can’t remember they have kids … should they have kids?” — Norm
“I am obsessive when it comes to my children’s safety, and I would never leave them unattended in a car in a public place for any amount of time. However, I think that circumstances need to be considered here. The woman was in her own driveway, just running in the house to get an umbrella. Any mother can tell you what a pain it is to get a kid in and out of a car seat, and I can totally see leaving the child if you’re dashing into your own house to grab a forgotten item and dashing right back out. It was July in Orlando, for crying out loud; it was responsible to leave the keys in the car and, presumably, the air running for the baby. This was one of those fluke things and I think that, if the circumstances are this black and white, any persecution of this poor woman is nothing short of a witch hunt. My heart goes out to this woman, and I am so thankful that her baby is OK.” — Lisa
“Come on, let’s be real, who hasn’t forgotten something and ran back into there home with the motor running and child inside the car (of course with hand breaks set securely so the vehicle can’t/won’t be moved if it should slip into gear)? Let’s make tougher laws against the real criminals so we can prevent our good lives from changing because of them.” — Keith (Coldwater, MI)
“Pet owners go to jail for leaving their dog or cat in the car, but parents get off with a hand slap for leaving a human child in the car. I am not unaware of the pain and guilt of losing a child by one’s own negligence, but homicide is homicide. The justice system has means to deal with inadvertent homicide. I think a stronger message to disgustingly distracted parents needs to be issued and enforced. This issue arises way too often to be considered isolated.” — Caroll (Boise, ID)
“I find this chilling. I really don't think there is a mother out there who hasn't left her children in the car for a few minutes while she went to get something. Getting the kids all into the car and buckled and ready to leave can be a big task and to have to take them all with you back into the house just because you forgot something would not really be on my list of things I want to do. I suppose if one lives in a high crime, or dangerous, area then you would be more cautious. This mother went to get an umbrella so her 2-month-old wouldn't get wet! Also she lives in Florida and turning her car off (their new law says can't ever leave a child in a running car) would have made the inside of the car too hot. I think she did what most mothers I know would have done.” — Nanny
“Of course the mother should be charged. In most states, it is against the law to leave keys in a car, let alone your child and the keys! Shame on her. It's time to start holding these people accountable for their irresponsible behavior.” — Phillip (East Greenbush, NY)
“It never ceases to amaze me on how we, as children, managed to survive all of the times our parents left us in the car while they went into a store; and those were the days when the electric windows and cigarette lighters did not even have an ignition lockout.” — Jim (Longmont, CO)
“In the case of the mother who left her child in her car while she went in the house to get an umbrella to cover her baby from a rain storm, two key facts are missing from the story for ordinary citizens to be able to comment about how Florida law applies to her. The first fact is whether the car was left running at all. That wasn't reported, but affects whether the Florida mother can be charged. The second fact was whether the mother was in her house 15 minutes or more. That wasn't reported, but affects whether the Florida mother can be charged. So, no comment.” — Mark (Wisconsin)
“It is stupid behavior but not criminal. If the child were left in a hot car with the windows closed for an extended amount of time, that is very negligent parenting. To run into the house to get an umbrella is very foolish. There are other ways to cover the baby to carry it into the house without leaving it alone in the car. But it still is not criminal behavior.” — Susan (Washington)
“I think it should be handled on a case-by-case basis: Very good parents who do not otherwise neglect or abuse their children may have a momentary lapse of judgment that results in no harm to the young child or baby secured in a car seat. These parents love their children more than anything else in the world and at the time of the lapse of judgment did not believe someone would steal their car in the five minutes or less they stepped away. Not every situation involves a child in a car that is hot. Very often, it is a well-maintained car, with the air-conditioner running, a good engine, and even a locked car using the valet key. These parents are humiliated beyond belief just from the confrontation with the police man, receiving the ticket and fine and having to tell the spouse they love. Additionally, the police will contact Child Protective Services to do a follow-up visit and the entire ordeal with CPS is extremely humiliating, the lesson is learned, the child is safe, the parent will never do it again, and no one needed to serve jail-time.” — Joe
“I think there should be a definite difference in how individual cases are handled. It is one thing for a mom to leave her child in a car while she goes and does her own thing for a certain amount of time. That is neglect and endangerment. However it is another thing when a responsible mother is struggling to carry an infant carrier in the rain from church and has to run back in for something she forgot. It’s completely unfair to lump all these cases in the same bag. There are already laws on the books for neglect and endangerment ... why make one more that could possibly include innocent parents as well as the truly guilty ones?” — Suzy (Philadelphia, PA)
“This should send a message for all parents to be more responsible. Someone has to protect kids. It’s a parent’s nightmare when a kid goes. So why not pass a law that makes parents accountable with a fine or short term prison stunt for leaving their kids in a car unattended. You hear horror story of infants, kids locked in cars unsupervised dying from the heat. I say parents should be held accountable and we should remember infants & toddlers are helpless.” — Hope (Oak Creek, WI)
“The mom should NOT face any charges. When a person's car is in their own driveway in front of their own house, most people would have a reasonable degree of expectation that they could safely do what the mom did. If she had done this in a public parking lot, THEN she should face some charges, but not is this case.” — Dave (Birmingham, AL)
“If you don't have time to take your child in wherever you go, you don't need to go anywhere! No child should be left unattended for any length of time in a vehicle. I had three children within three years, but never were they left in the car while I ran into a store. It's child abuse!” — Nana (Cobbtown, GA)
“I am writing as a mother of three, and I have NEVER left my children alone in a car. I have had times where I have loaded them up just to realize I left my purse, or phone, or diaper bag in the house and have had to unload all of my children ages 4, 2, and 3 months just to retrieve my forgotten item. I am not denying the fact that it is a royal pain sometimes, and not all parties are cooperative, but it is the only safe thing to do. The welfare of my children has always been a priority. — Jeanna (Las Vegas, NV)
“We can turn out so much legislation that we can prosecute anyone we want to make them into a criminal. A scary thought. Why not trust citizens to make responsible choices and let the punishments of life be sufficient, except for true criminals.” — L
“The fact that people even do this is a disgrace to parenting. Regardless of time length, leaving a child in a car is an irresponsible and selfish thing to do. I seriously question the intelligence of any parent who justifies their decision to leave their child in the car with the excuse ‘it's only for a short time.’ As a 22 year old mother, I may not be the best example of parenting, but when I get out of the car my little boy comes with me. Leaving a child in the car for two or three minutes may not seem like a big deal, but it can lead to a lifetime of regret. I don't know if I would support making it a felony (mistakes do happen) but I think a hefty fine wouldn't be out of the question for those who are too lazy to undo a car seat buckle.” — Meganne
“Yes they should be held accountable. Anyone with at least two brain cells knows what can happen if they do this. The most common excuse is, I did not know the kid or kids were in the car. If you are that stupid, you should not have children or a drivers license. No excuse is rational on this subject. Ever.” — Charles
“When will there be a crackdown on leaving them at daycare and with other assorted strangers?” — ST
“This is a tough one because you want to do what is best for the child. Is it best to leave them without their parent when their parent, other than being stupid, is good to them? I definitely think the parent should be punished in some way as harsh as possible without imprisonment so they remember not to do it again. If the child actually dies in the car or suffers any other injury then I think the punishment should be stepped up. It is one of the most careless things you can do with your child. For parents to think ‘it will be OK,’ is very uneducated and selfish. You should do what is best for the child and what is best is to go ahead and grab them and take them with you.” — Elizabeth
“Before I buckle my 2-year-old granddaughter into her car seat, I start the engine and begin to blast the air-conditioner. I don't want her in a hot car ... not even for as long as it takes me to walk around the car and get into the driver's seat. People who leave children in cars, even for a minute, should be punished to the full extent of the law. I believe our laws are too lenient and should be changed. Leaving children in hot cars in nothing short of torture.” — Grace (Port Washington, NY)
“We have become self-absorbed society full of individual with a lot of excuses and no sense of responsibility. This is only one symptom of that problem. Should these people, who can't seem to understand or care why they should not leave children, infants in a car alone be prosecuted? Yes! I think the Florida law is a good start, but far too lenient. They should be prosecuted for child neglect and child endangerment. There was a man just last week in the west who left his 11-month-old child in the car for six hours. Sadly, because of the father's neglect, that child suffered and died, yet that man has not been charged (that I know of). I don't care about the feelings and remorse of the parent. The parents acted with criminal, moral, and parental negligence and should be made to pay a high price for the small life entrusted to them that they did not take adequate care of.” — Carousel
“A resounding YES! I had four children all within four years and I hauled all of them into the store with me or I went on errands when my husband was home to watch them. With drive-through payments, etc. a person hardly has to leave their vehicle. Many stores also have play areas with attendants that you can leave your children for up to an hour. ” — Jennifer
“Yeah they should be prosecuted!” — M.
“Yes. Time and time again, all summer long, every summer, you hear of small children left in cars in parking lots dying horrible deaths due to extremely high heat, or being kidnapped. These cases receive so much media coverage (and rightly so) that there is just no way a person could be unaware of the danger. Still, people keep on doing it. So yes, if jail time and heavy fines are necessary to wake people up to the fact that leaving kids in parked cars is not only dangerous, but really stupid, then so be it.” — Sam (MO)
“They really shouldn't have left the kid in a car with the engine running. Leaving the keys in the car was the other obvious mistake. Now considering the car was stolen and their baby was missing for a period of time that should serve as their punishment. That, of course, is up to the judge, if he or she wants to rule that way. My guess is that the parents aren't going to make this mistake again. I am hoping that the judge is lenient in this case. If they do it again then throw the book at them.” — Gary (Fairborn, OH)