Is it criminal to leave a young child alone in a car? Should it be?

Not always, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Thursday — and it did so unanimously.

It's a case that's been going for six years, since a mother of four left her 19-month-girl in a locked car, in a parking lot in South Plainfield. As she popped into a Dollar Tree, store security called police, and she was arrested.

In short, the Supreme Court said it's not automatically illegal to leave a young child alone in a car if the caretaker takes certain precautionary measures. The mother in the case, referenced only by initials in court filings, will be granted a fact-finding hearing.

Notably, the case ends the state's ability to enroll parents and guardians automatically in a registry of child abusers if they leave children unattended in cars, notes.

It quotes the woman's attorney, Daniel N. Epstein: “She admits that she made a mistake. ... For her to be involved in a process this lengthy and this trying has taken a toll on her. She has been able to shield her family from this stress, thankfully, because of the anonymity, but she’s had to worry on a daily basis what the decision of the court would be.”

What do you think? Is it ever OK to leave a young child unattended in a car?  How young is too young, and how long is too long? Tell us in the comments below or Tweet us at @NJ1015.

Here's the full court ruling: