Most parents say you shouldn’t leave your baby in the car even for just a few minutes. But sometimes it doesn’t make sense to take the baby out of the car seat and put them into the stroller just to grab something from a store that really will only take a few minutes. While everyone knows that leaving a child in a car while it is stifling hot is dangerous. What if the weather is cool? What if you have the car locked and can look out and see the baby? Is it safe to do it then? Many parents leave their children locked in the car while they run into the gas station to pay for gas. And although there is no law against doing that, bystanders might not like it. And if they report you, you could face criminal charges. That’s what happened to one mother who left her child locked in the car for 3 minutes.
When 28-year-old Heather DeStein was taking care of her 3-month-old daughter Reilly, battling severe post-partum depression and driving her fiancé to work, she had a lot on her plate. But that was only the start of the nightmare she was about to face on that morning of St. Patrick’s Day at the start of 2017.
And since the baby had “really choppy sleep the night before,” DeStein had been woken at 4:30am and she had to soothe her all morning.
Later DeStein had to drive her fiancé Daran to his job at P.F. Chang’s. And at that time, Reilly finally fell asleep around 10 or 1015am.
Because the baby was finally giving mom a break, she pulled into the Wawa gas station and decided to fill up her tank. It was just a few minutes from her home in Prince William County, Virginia in the Washington DC metro area.
Because Reilly was finally asleep, mom didn’t want to disturb her. And since it was not hot outside – it was in the 30s, and much warmer in the car, she decided to leave the baby in the car seat while she paid for gas and filled up her tank.
DeStein left her vehicle and went to pay for the gas. The car was locked and always in sight. And she bought herself a donut and paid for gas.
When she got out of the station, a man, a cop, wearing tactical pants and a long-sleeve polo shirt was standing next to her car with his arms crossed.
“You know there’s a baby in there, right?” he said in a hateful tone.
“Yes,” Riley said. “I was gone for three minutes.”
And this was confirmed by the Wawa security camera.
Heather said, “All the man did was ask for my ID and go sit in his car, which was parked two down from me, and sat there. Fifteen minutes later he came back to get some info about my address.”
Then he said, “It’s freezing out here. You should know better.”
He made Heather start crying.
Another police officer arrived.
The officers intimidated her and then charged her. She was arrested and later released into the custody of her fiancé.
The next day Child Protective Services showed up at Heather’s door. Thankfully CPS dismissed the case. But the police were just getting started.
She was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a child. She was facing jail time.