In the case of People v. Leonard, New York State Court of Appeals rendered a decision that the kidnapping of an individual’s own child, even though the individual was the residential custodial parent, was not a “legal impossibility.” The Court of Appeals said that while parents have a right to control their children’s movements, there are cases where they go too far and they violate the law.
The Mother’s Activities
Jacqueline Jordan prevented her five children and two adults, one of whom was a case worker, from leaving a room at a Catherine Street women’s shelter. This took place on October 3, 2013. Ms. Jordan placed a chair under the doorknob which prevented the children and adults from leaving the room for a period of an hour and twenty minutes.
In this case, the court found the mother’s conduct extreme and beyond the scope of a legitimate parental decision. The court went on to state her actions were “outside the bounds of a custodial parent’s lawful right to restrict her child’s movement.” Judge Statsinger found the mother’s behavior was unfathomable and her actions were not undertaken for the purpose of protecting her children or disciplining them. He went on to state “a parent who restricts the movement of an angry or unruly child, under the reasonable belief that such is necessary to prevent the child from harming another person or damaging property would…likely be acting on the lawful end of the Leonard spectrum.” He also went on to state “similarly a parent who restricts the movements of a sick child so the child will not infect others is also likely behaving lawfully. But…the court here discerns no such goal in the defendant’s behavior.”
Judge Statsinger came to the conclusion the criminal charge of unlawful imprisonment, attempted unlawful imprisonment, and endangering the welfare of a child were appropriate in this case.
If you are going to lock your children in a room, you better have a really good reason!
Elliot S. Schlissel represents fathers and mothers concerning applications for orders of protection, investigations by child protective service agencies, as well as defending them in Family Courts concerning accusations of child abuse and child neglect.