Stearns County District Court File Nos. K2-03-2629 & K2-03-2632.
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.
The word "likely," as it is used in the statutory definitions of child neglect and child endangerment, Minn. Stat. § 609.378, subd. 1(a)(1), (b)(1) (2000), means "more likely than not."
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Willis, Judge
The state appeals from a pretrial order granting a motion to dismiss charges of child neglect and endangerment for lack of probable cause. The district court concluded that the child-neglect and child-endangerment statutes require that the situation in which the children were left was more likely than not to cause substantial harm to the children. We affirm.
On March 2, 2003, Waite Park police responded to a call reporting that three children, two of whom were later determined to be six years old and the third eight months old, were alone in a vehicle in a retail-store parking lot. When the police arrived at the parking lot, they found the children sitting alone in a locked vehicle. The car's heater was on and the engine was running. The outside temperature was approximately seven degrees. The police noted that the three children were appropriately dressed for the weather and that they did not appear upset.
The children's parents, respondents Raymond Lloyd Tice and Tiffany Ann Tice, returned to the vehicle approximately 40 minutes after leaving the children to enter a nearby pet store. Respondents told the police that they had left the children alone in the vehicle because the youngest child was sleeping, and they anticipated being in the store for only a brief time. Before leaving their children alone, respondents had admonished the children to stay in the car and not to let anyone into the car.
The state charged respondents with child neglect and child endangerment, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.378, subd. 1(a)(1), (b)(1) (2000). The district court granted respondents' motion to dismiss the charges for lack of probable cause. The court focused on the requirement in both statutes that the defendant's act or omission be "likely to substantially harm the child's physical, mental, or emotional health . . . ." Minn. Stat. § 609.378, subd. 1(a)(1) (defining child neglect); see also Minn. Stat. § 609.378, subd. 1(b)(1) (defining child endangerment with identical language). The district court, citing Black's Law Dictionary as well as Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, construed the term "likely" to mean that harm would more likely than not result from the conduct. This appeal follows.
Do Minnesota's child-neglect and child-endangerment statutes, Minn. Stat. § 609.378, subd. 1(a)(1), (b)(1) (2000), require the state to prove that the situation in which a child is placed is more ...