A judge on Thursday, Jan. 31, dismissed three felony child neglect charges, ruling that a woman accused of not sending her children to school was not a resident of North Dakota and therefore he had no jurisdiction in the case.
Rachel Vincent, 41, was charged in October with four class C felony counts of child neglect after police said she didn’t enroll four of her children — ages 17, 16, 10 and 9 — in school. One count was dismissed in November after a preliminary hearing.
At a hearing Thursday, Jeremy Curran, one of Vincent’s defense attorneys, argued that the court didn’t have jurisdiction over the case because the prosecution never showed that Vincent was a North Dakota resident.
Under North Dakota law, a parent or guardian of a child between the ages of 7 and 16 is responsible for ensuring that child attends school.
Curran said that Vincent had visited her husband, who was temporarily living in Williston for work, but that the family, including the children, lived in Montana.
“It’s preposterous to say if someone visits North Dakota during the school year with their kids, they’d have to register them for school,” he told Northwest District Judge Benjamen Johnson.
Eric Lundberg, assistant state’s attorney for Williams County, argued that an eviction notice from Montana, along with calls to the Williston Police and interactions between Vincent and officers proved that she was actually a North Dakota resident. On Thursday, Lundberg called Williston police detective Amber Koehn, who investigated the case.
She testified that one of the addresses Vincent gave police when she called for assistance was in the 900 block of East Highland Drive, and while there was never a signed lease, the police investigation led her to believe that was where Vincent, her husband and the children were living.
Vincent testified that her husband was temporarily living at the Highland Drive address, and that she and the children traveled back and forth between Kalispell, Montana, and Williston to visit him.
Johnson dismissed the case against Vincent, saying the prosecution hadn’t shown that she was a legal resident of North Dakota. He pointed out that someone can own or rent multiple homes, but only ever has one legal residence.
He said he didn’t hear any evidence from the prosecution that established a legal residence for Vincent or the children, and therefore he didn’t have jurisdiction to try the case. He said the eviction notice the prosecution presented didn’t prove Vincent’s legal residence was in North Dakota.
After the hearing, Curran said he was pleased with the decision.
“This was a motion we felt we had to write, because Rachel Vincent’s a resident of Montana,” he said. “We’re excited Rachel and her family can put this all behind them and move on.”