By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Supreme Court of New Jersey just heard an appeal involving a 2009 case in which a New Jersey mother left her 19-month-old child asleep in her parked, locked car with the motor running and windows open a crack while she went inside a store for 5-10 minutes. When she returned, the child was still asleep, but police, who were waiting for her, charged her with child endangerment.

Well? Is it endangerment if the child was not physically, mentally, or emotionally impaired? The New Jersey appeals court held that it IS child endangerment because the mother recklessly created a risk of serious injury to that child. While even the parents involved in the case admitted it was a mistake, they didn’t feel that it alone constituted child neglect or endangerment and appealed.

It’s now in the hands of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

No matter the legal decision, remember that even in good weather and while asleep, a toddler and even an older child is defenseless. And 19 states have laws that specifically make it illegal to leave children unattended in a car.

You can go to to see if your state outlaws it, but remember, you lock your car to protect it – it is incumbent upon parents to take every precaution to protect their most precious possession.