A Lexington woman accused of leaving two children in a vehicle in June, which she told police was air conditioned, has a new court date.
Maria Rivas-Velazques was charged with unlawful conduct toward a child after the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department said she left a 5-year-old girl and a 23-month-old boy in a running vehicle for about 12 minutes. She has a second appearance in court scheduled for Nov. 10, according to the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.
But should Rivas-Velazques have been charged in the first place? David S. DeLugas, executive director for the Atlanta-based National Association of Parents, said the answer is “no.”
“The fact that, subjectively, some people are uncomfortable with a situation where they incorrectly believe that a child is at risk of being hurt doesn’t rise to the level where a crime has been committed,” DeLugas said.
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The 501(c)3 nonprofit reached out to the woman’s family after the incident to offer pro bono legal services. DeLugas said the U.S. Supreme Court has been clear that parents have the right to make decisions for their children, as long as these decisions don’t cause physical or long-term emotional harm.
It’s not about whether or not leaving kids in a vehicle is a good or bad idea, DeLugas said – it’s about whether the kids were harmed and whether a crime was committed.
“There are a lot of individuals who are do-gooders who want to think they’re being helpful, but they’re not being helpful,” DeLugas said.
Though the deputy who arrested Rivas-Velazques cited the heat index as a danger, DeLugas said the officer should have measured the temperature inside the truck.
The attorney representing Rivas-Velazques, Jake Moore Jr., declined to comment.
“I don’t comment about these things,” Moore said. “There’s just too much that can happen.”