Leaving Children Unattended in Vehicles

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How many times have you been driving down the freeway in your car listening to the radio, and you momentarily forget that your baby is in the back?  As a result of the focus and attention required to watch over a baby, a car can seem a perfect respite from childcare responsibility, especially if your little one is sound asleep.  As a result of laws mandating rear-facing child seats, and today’s oversized SUVs, your baby will even be more out-of-sight, out-of-mind. 

The above lapse of memory happened in a recent case, where a father drove over to a friend’s house to play cards.  The weather was partly cloudy and around 70.  Suddenly, he heard a commotion, and ran outside to find neighbors trying to rescue his baby inside.  Unfortunately, the baby had died of heat stroke.  The father was charged criminally with leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.

Because of incidents such as this one, and cases of carjackings, car accidents, car fires, and carbon monoxide asphyxiation, at least 14 states across the nation, including Texas, have enacted statutes specifically addressing leaving children unattended in vehicles.  In February 2008, the President signed into law the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007, which requires the Department of Transportation to issue regulations related to rearward visibility, power window safety, and rollaway prevention.  This bill will help prevent kids from being able to accidentally shift the car into gear while inside.

Even if the state does not have a specific law prohibiting leaving children inside a vehicle, criminal charges can be filed under more general laws, such as endangering the welfare of a minor, negligent parenthood, or reckless endangerment.  The duty of a parent to protect a child from injury is imposed through a legal relationship. Thus, if you are charged with the crime of leaving your child in a car, you should talk to a criminal defense lawyer immediately.

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Last Modified: 09-19-2016 04:26 PM PDT

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