Elements of Endangering The Welfare of A Child (Part 4)

by | Oct 17, 2018 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The first dissent insists that “a sensible textual construction of the endangering statute” would “require harm as a precondition to the examples given in the abuse-and-neglect statutes.” Post at ___ (slip op. at 5) (Albin, J., dissenting). The statute, however, delineates nothing about the use of preconditions, but instead expressly subsumes the Title 9 provisions signaling a legislative intent to broaden the statutory definition of “harm.” “It would show little respect for the legislature were courts to suppose that the lawmakers meant to enact an irrational scheme.”

Based on the statutory construction, the Legislature’s incorporation of Title 9 provisions into N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a), and thirty years of ample judicial precedent, we agree with the Appellate Division’s decision in this case that the State successfully proved that defendant exposed the children in her care to imminent danger and a substantial risk of harm pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a).

Children are naturally curious and inquisitive. Here, we had six underage children, ranging in age from one to thirteen, housed in a confined space. Drugs hauntingly surrounded children’s toys and clothing. The ease of access to cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, and the attraction of brightly colored pills, all created a potentially lethal trap for the children that could have been easily sprung at any moment.

With this evidence developed by the State at trial, the Appellate Division properly concluded that N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a), incorporating Title 9, includes exposing a child to a substantial risk of harm. We affirm the judgment of the Appellate Division upholding the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion for a judgment of acquittal.

Justice Albin filed a dissent in which he was joined by Justice LaVecchia. Chief Justice Rabner filed a separate dissent. Justice Timpone repeatedly attacked Justice Albin’s dissent, but wrote nothing about the Chief Justice’s separate dissenting opinion. In such a close case, it is conceivable that Justice Timpone would have lost a swing vote if he was critical of the Court’s Chief Justice.