The Netflix holiday movie The Christmas Chronicles starring Kurt Russell raises interstate issues of child endangerment. Did Santa Claus knowingly endanger the lives of Teddy and Kate Pierce on their Christmas Eve adventure?
Child Endangerment in Massachusetts
Teddy and Kate Pierce stowed away in Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve near their home in Lowell, Massachusetts while trying to surreptitiously document Santa’s existence on videotape. After surprising Santa in flight, Kate was ejected from the sleigh, recovered in free fall, and the trio nearly had a midair collision with an airliner, and ultimately crash-landed outside of Chicago, Illinois.
Massachusetts law defines child endangerment as follows:
Whoever wantonly or recklessly engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or sexual abuse to a child or wantonly or recklessly fails to take reasonable steps to alleviate such risk where there is a duty to act shall be punished by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2½ years.
For the purposes of this section, such wanton or reckless behavior occurs when a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his acts, or omissions where there is a duty to act, would result in serious bodily injury or sexual abuse to a child. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard of the risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.
Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 265, § 13L.
If Santa Claus sees you when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake, how did he not the whereabouts of the Pierce children? If Santa Claus knew the children were in the sleigh, and proceeded to take them across state lines with the above-mentioned risks, he did so with full knowledge of their presence. There is a strong argument that such conduct recklessly created a substantial risk of serious bodily injury, specifically Kate nearly free falling to her death, and the near midair collision with an aircraft (to say nothing about the risk of life to the airline passengers).
If Santa Claus was somehow unaware of the Pierce children, there is a strong defense that he did not endanger them, because the risks of injury were created by the children’s conduct of stowing away and surprising Santa Claus, thus being the proximate cause of the dangerous inflight situations.
Child Endangerment in Illinois
The issue of child endangerment was fundamentally changed after Santa Claus and the Pierces crashed in Chicago, because Santa Claus had actual knowledge of the children.
Stealing a Stolen Car
17 year old Teddy Pierce absconded with keys to a stolen red Dodge Charger, which Teddy drove for Santa and Kate Pierce in their search for the reindeer and missing bag of toys.
Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is when an adult directs or compels a minor to commit an offense that is either 1) a felony when the minor is under 17 years old; or 2) a misdemeanor when the minor is under 18 years old. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/12C-30(b).
Theft includes someone knowingly obtaining control over stolen property. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/16-1(a)(4). Theft of property exceeding $10,000, but under $100,000 value, is a Class 2 felony. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/16-1(b)(5).
The value of a Dodge Charger is at least $28,000, Teddy Piece could be convicted of a Class 2 felony in Illinois. As such, given Santa’s influence over Teddy, Santa could be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor for the theft of the Charger.
High Speed Police Chase
Santa Claus was in a high-speed police chase with Teddy Piece in the Dodge Charger. A person commits child endangerment if they cause a child to be placed in circumstances that endanger the child’s life or health. 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/12C-5(a)(2). Engaging in a high-speed chase is without question endangerment of a child. The same could be said for telling Kate Pierce to ride magical reindeer without a saddle, which placed her in risk of falling off a galloping reindeer.
It’s a Christmas Miracle
The Christmas Chronicles is a delightful family holiday movie. The reason for alleged crimes were pivotal to a specific character’s redemption. There is also a strong argument that Christmas magic actually negated all the risks to the children, thus eliminating the essential elements of endangerment for any charges to be filed against Santa Claus. Legal analysis aside, be sure to watch Kurt Russell as Santa Claus this year.