CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Breitfeld on Hot Cars and Forgotten Babies

Erika Breitfeld (Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School) has posted Hot-Car Deaths and Forgotten-Baby Syndrome: A Case Against Prosecution (25 Berkeley J. Crim. L. 72 (2020)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
This article calls on prosecutors and policymakers to re-examine their perception and treatment of parents who forget their children in cars. It offers prosecutors a guide on how to analyze these cases and urges them to advocate for reform in their communities. For support, the article explores the neuroscience behind forgetting a child. It also examines recent cases to identify three categories of parents in hot-car child deaths: parents who truly forget their children in the car, parents who take calculated risks because they are uneducated about the danger of leaving children in cars, and parents who commit criminally negligent and intentional filicide. Finally, the article argues that fundamental criminal-law principles do not support a finding of criminal responsibility against truly forgetful parents — and argues that prosecutors should use community engagement along with existing safety and educational tools to reduce the ranks of the first two parent groups and the number of hot-car child deaths.

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