RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - The Virginia Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of a mother who left her sleeping toddler and two dogs in the backseat of an illegally-parked car while she allegedly went shopping.
Tiffany Stevens Miller claimed she'd recruited a store employee to watch her car, which was left running and double-parked in the fire lane with the windows rolled down, "for about five minutes" while she went grocery shopping.
The employee said he was surprised to find a child asleep in the backseat, and after about 30 minutes, asked a coworker to keep an eye on the child while she completed her duties in the parking lot.
An hour later, the grocery store employees said, there was still no sign of Miller. A store manager took down Miller's license plate number and contacted the Fairfax County Police Department.
According to the ruling, officers found Miller at her home, where she claimed "employees of the store had agreed to watch the child for her," neither of which she could identify by name.
Miller appealed her conviction on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, claiming the state failed to prove that she willfully and unreasonably left her child unattended.
But Judge Marla Graff Decker of the Virginia Court of Appeals upheld Miller's conviction.
"The jury did not err in refusing to consider these store employees, unwittingly pressed into service, as 'guardians' of the child for purposes of the definition of an abused or neglected child," Decker wrote. "The child could have easily have been kidnapped or taken inadvertently in a theft of the car, hurt in a collision with another car while double parked in the fire lane, or injured by the dogs in the car."
The judge added: " The fact that strangers watched the vehicle during that period of time could actually have added to the potential danger since the appellant knew nothing about the two individuals beyond their status as employees of the grocery store."
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