In Adams v. State, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s convictions on two counts of contributing to the deprivation of a minor, but affirmed her convictions for aggravated child molestation, child molestation, and other charges.
The defendant left her two young children in bed at home for less than an hour while she was out purchasing marijuana for a 13-year-old boy who accompanied her. Upon returning, the defendant entered her camper to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana with the 13-year-old boy and his friend. The defendant then performed oral sex on the 13-year-old boy and engaged in sexual intercourse with him multiple times.
In addition to the molestation offenses, the defendant was charged with contributing to the deprivation of two minors, her own children, by leaving them alone in the house for less than an hour. The defendant was convicted of all charges at trial.
The Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s convictions for contributing to the deprivation of a minor, holding that leaving a child alone in the house “without more” does not constitute a violation of the statute.
The Court noted that while the Georgia appellate courts have, in several cases, ruled against defendants for leaving children unattended, each case included other circumstances; such as leaving children with a person with a history of violence towards children, leaving the children for so long that one develops hypothermia, etc.
Here, the Court recognized that while the Defendant’s reason for leaving them alone was “far from compelling; indeed it was a criminal,” it held that the mere act of leaving sleeping children alone for less than an hour does not inherently cause any harm to the children.
The Court recognized that there is a major difference between leaving a sleeping child alone in the house to go to the mailbox and leaving toddlers at home for a week to go on a cruise. The problem for the Court is where that “statutory line lies between these two examples.”
The Court was confident though in its conclusion that the defendant’s “act of leaving her sleeping children for less than an hour was [not] an act that persons of ordinary understanding would conclude deprived those children of needs essential to their well-being.”