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July 05, 2007


Brian Day

The story didn't say, but I wonder what the consequences for the mother will be.
Obviously the mother did not know that the cell phone was capable of calling 9-1-1. However significant police/fire resources were tied up with all of the calls. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Should authorities just chalk up the experience as "stuff happens" or should the mother be held accountable?


Well, considering all the people they don't prosecute for leaving their children in hot cars to die, I would say they shouldn't do anything.

Of course, I really think they should fine her or require community service. Everyone knows that deactivated cell phones are able to call 911, or they should. My father even knows, and he HATES gadgets...


How the kid get a cell phone, especially if it's deactivated?

Marty Helgesen

The rule "Ignorance of the law is no excuse" applies to ignorance of the law one has broken. It may not apply to the mother's apparent ignorance of the law requiring cell phone manufacturers to include that capability, which the manufacturer obeyed. Based on the incomplete information provided in the story I would be inclined to let her off.

Brian Day

How the kid get a cell phone, especially if it's deactivated?
It was probably given to the child as a play toy. I used to let me kids play with old land-line phones. The mother probably did the same with the cell phone.


Ignorance of the law, and ignorance that a device can do something are two wildly different things.

For instance, if unbeknownst to me, someone rigged up the ink on page 124 of a book I haven't read with some light sensitive stuff that when opened made the fire department receive calls, should I be morally culpable for reading that book, or giving it for my kid to read?

*I* didn't know about 911 being active on out of service cell phones until a year or two ago. I can see how a mother might have thought the thing would be a swell toy.


Ignorance of the law is no excuse

And that's why Seinfeld and his gang deserved to be locked up in jail in the end!

Good riddance! ;p


I didn't know until I read this story that deactivated cell phones can still call 911, and I've always thought I was reasonably well-informed. Guess I was wrong...

I can't see a case being made for the mother being liable in this situation, at least not based on the information given. If she knew the kid was doing it and let her keep playing with the phone, that's another story. But I'd say you have to be able to prove she knew or should have known about it, and I don't see that being proved based on the information we have.

Ed Peters

Are people really suggesting criminal responsibility on the part of a mother who did not know that federal law required 911 access in deactivated cell phones?

Golly. Kind of takes one's breath away.

Scott W

If they said they were bringing McDonald's, they should have brought McDonald's. :)

Randolph Carter

It really would be just beyond stupid to charge the mother for misdeeds perpetrated, without her knowledge, by her grungy little offspring. Now, if you're asking what should be done to the child . . . well, the kid was only four, so I guess we can rule out tarring and feathering. But liberal use of the stockade is still on the table.


Wait a minute, something doesn't smell right.

She made 287 calls in one month. Let's assume each call lasted 30 seconds, which is pretty short. That means that she spent a total of 2.4 hours on the phone. That phone must have had an amazing battery to have that kind of talk time. With light usage, my phone's battery is dead within a week; if I have 2 hours of talk time it's even less timie.

I think it's safe to assume somebody was recharging the phone for the child to use. Which begs the question, why?

Why would you keep a deactivated phone fully charged? It'd be absolutely useless, unless you knew it could be used to call 911 in an emergency. Unless you just like wasting electricity.

Maybe the mother isn't as blissfully ignorant as we thought.

One more thought: most of the little kids I know play with old electronic devices. I know of no parent who keeps them fully charged and operable. It's unsafe--what if the kid drools on the contact points, causes a short, and gets shocked?

There's something wrong here. What, I don't know, but I don't like it.

Brian Day

Are people really suggesting criminal responsibility on the part of a mother who did not know that federal law required 911 access in deactivated cell phones?

I re-read the entries up to your post. Who was suggesting criminal responsibility on the part of the mother?


Criscoball - you asked the same question I was going to ask. There's no way the phone would have stayed charged long enough for her to make all of those calls, unless the mother also gave her the A/C adapter to play with -- and THAT is pretty scary too.

Ed Peters

BD, that's my point. Talk about "ignorance of the law" is an aspect of criminal (defense) law. Why is it even being raised?


Lots of cell phones have little video games that you can play on them. That could explain why she may have kept it charged...

Brian Day


I was thinking civil penalties, which may be appropriate. That's why I asked the question.

IANAL, but there may be rules or laws that prohibit frivolous/crank calls to 9-1-1. The mother is ignorant of the law to keep 9-1-1 available to de-activated cell phones and so gives the child an old cell phone to play with. The 4-year old cannot be held liable for her actions due to age, but the mother could be liable for her daughters actions. Not criminally, but civilly.

Let's say the child found a can of spray paint in the cupboard and unknown to the mother, the child went out and sprayed graffiti on a wall. No criminal charges would be filed, but the mother be be presented a clean-up bill to remove said graffiti.

In the same way, should the mother be presented a bill for all or part of the resources taken to stop the crank 9-1-1 calls?


Oh yeah, I'm sure that'd help this mother and kid out immensely to burden the mother with a huge bill she probably can't pay given that she lives in an apartment complex and all, and the toy she could afford for her kid was a out of service cell phone. ( Yes, I'm aware it COULD be some amazing million dollar apartment, but SOMEHOW I doubt that. )

Instead of always making someone suffer and be the bad guy, sometimes mercy is a good thing.

As far as the charging thing goes, in addition to the games on the phone, I'm sure that just having the phone go beep-beep-beep when buttons were pressed was enough reason for her to think that would be neat for the kid.

Shame though that she was unaware that this phone still DID things.


Parent was negligent in 2 ways:
1) shouldn't give a 4yo a cellphone capable of dialing 911 to play with. Electronic games are < $10 at WalMart.
2) should have coached 4yo on how NOT TO GIVE YOUR ADDRESS TO STRANGERS...

Ken Crawford

OK, I'll admit up front that I'm not a lawyer and I could be showing just how much of an idiot I am, but I'm somewhat certain that anytime a court case is between a citizen and the government, it's a criminal case. Government cases that are about money instead of jail time are still criminal cases (examples: anti-trust cases, enviromental protection issues, etc.). Civil suits are between private parties.

So Brian, I think that calling 911 illegally, even if the result is a fine, is still a criminal case.

Ken Crawford

And while I'm in the dangerous mood of being a somewhat ignorant debunker...

Cell phones often have 10 hours of talk time. True over time they loose that ability, but it's not outside the realm of reasonable posibilities that the mom got a new cell phone while the old phone still had a 6+ hour talk time, had the phone fully charged when she gave it to her daughter and didn't think to remove the battery.

Catherine L

OK, call me an idiot, but I didn't know until I read this thread that deactivated cell phones could call 911.


If the mother did get served with a bill, it could be waived for community service by her or an enrollment in a program for her child. (Especially if the girl fell into the "at-risk" category.) Judges aren't monsters... well, not most of 'em, anyway. :)


Ignorance of the law is no excuse

Let's see what the law entails.

Federal law, which includes both the United States Code, and the Code of Federal Regulations. IIRC, they're thousands of pages long.

Then we have the state laws of your local state. For Illinois, it would be thousands of pages as well. Then add to that the Illinois Administrative Code. Your state may have a similar number of pages.

Then we have county laws and ordinances for your county.

Then add all the ordinances of your local municipality, town or city.

Add to all of this, tens of thousands of court rulings. Again, state, federal, and local.

Add to all of this all the settled class action law suits which you may be a party to and you don't know of.


All of these laws. And we're expected to know them all, according to this standard.

Ignorance of the law is not only an excuse, it is the human condition :(


but I'm somewhat certain that anytime a court case is between a citizen and the government, it's a criminal case.

Not always.

Administrative proceedings are done which used to be done by criminal courts. You have less rights in them yet the punishments are the same (except you won't go to jail).




I'd have to agree BobCatholic. That's a LOT of stuff everyone's expected to know. Or, more likely, expected to not know but will still be held accountable to. Our society DOES so love to sue and jail folks.


Um... why not make sure that the kid realizes that "911" is for EMERGENCIES?

There's nothing wrong with a kid playing with a cell phone, but there is a lot of wrong with one thinking 911 is a game

For the person who mentioned drooling... maybe I'm around very advanced 4 year olds, but I don't know of any that would be at risk of drooling on a phone. I don't know of any three year olds, nor many two year olds who are at that risk.

I do think the mother should have been paying more attention to what the kid was doing, but part of me is remembering how I would spend time having imaginary talks on the old phone my folks let us kids have.


The child didn't even have to dial 9-1-1 - as the article said, holding down the 9 key for a few seconds would have done that. My question is: why did it take so long for authorities to trace the call - a kid calling repeatedly many times a day took over a month to pinpoint? What if that was a real emergency and someone only had a deactivated cell phone?


JohnA-- good point. I had a phone that malfunctioned and dialed 911 while it was on my desk, ten feet from any human.


I've never heard that about cellphones. Wow, you learn something every day....

Of course, I've never had a cellphone, so nobody's ever had reason to tell me. Heck, I'd never even touched a cellphone until last year. All these expensive and exotic high tech gadgets like touch-tone phones and remote controls come late to my house. :)


I received this link and need some input


the questions on Peter seem to be valid and sound...

ad majorem gloriam

John N.

Becky, I looked at this and responded already but I'm looking to see what people will say... whoever is behind this is not your normal stupid protestant, the arguments are good.


I'd qualify that statement as the arguments may be devious or persuasive while misleading. They aren't good, or they wouldn't be against the holy Church.

However, since it's off topic, perhaps someone with a good answer could mail Becky? I myself had enough of Protestant nonsense arguments when I was converting and have no desire to have to answer that kind of clap-trap again. I'm in the only Christian Church with a legitimate history going back to Christ that has been guaranteed by our Lord. That's good enough for me.


I received this link and need some input


the questions on Peter seem to be valid and sound...

ad majorem gloriam

Posted by: Becky | Jul 8, 2007 3:01:42 PM




As mentioned, if you care to discuss Catholicism, learn about what the Catholic Church actually teaches and NOT the distorted notions you accuse it of!


John N.????


Stop posting to yourself!


If anybody is interested in the Facts, here are some EXCELLENT articles from Catholic Answers that effectively rebuts Andre's Anti-Catholic Nonsense about Peter on his blog:

The Attempt to Whitewash Peter’s Primacy


Verse by Verse



And these are only a few!

Try rebutting these, Andre!

Sorry, one of the links above was corrupt.

Here it is:



Esau, I checked and you're right; it is Andre. Let's see: first, he lies about what the Church teaches; then, he lies about who he is. Well, he's consistent.


Of course, by posting on a site from which he has been banned, Andre opens himself up to a civil lawsuit and criminal charges.


Not to mention that lying is not exactly a credibility enhancer.

how do you post a link?


I like being a catholic - where ignorance of the law IS an excuse!


A link is
text you want to show

A great power. Use it only for good.


Humm, when I previewed it, it showed the proper text. *sigh*

Some Day

I like being a catholic - where ignorance of the law IS an excuse!

A great Catholic thinker once said that it is impossible that the Church in all Her greatness did not develop a legal basis of their own.
Roman Law, English Common Law...None of them entirely Catholic. We need a Catholic Law.


Some Day,

The secular axiom is "ignorance of the law is no excuse". You cannot claim to be innocent simply because you had no idea that a law even existed.

The catholic axiom is illustrated by the very fact that you cannot be subject to an inderdict or an automatic excommunication if you are not aware that you could have been automatically excommunicated. The same generally goes for any sin - you have to be aware it is sinful for you to be judged guilty. n'est pas??


So, you see we actually already have an entirely 'Catholic' law which is a legal basis distinct from Roman Law and English Common Law!!


Interesting to note that Canon Law, Church Law, reflects law traditions.

Canon Law is the Roman Law tradition. Its approach is not to define everything but to have laws; in fact, to keep laws to a minimum because the law is to be interpreted by practice (by putting it into practice). So, its laws are defined more at a minimum and that way they are more adaptable to different situations and to different cultures.

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