Leaving Children Unattended in Vehicles

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 Leaving Children Unattended in Vehicles

How many times have you been listening to the radio while driving down the interstate and fleetingly forgotten that your infant is in the back? A car can appear like the ideal escape from childcare duties because of the concentration and attention needed to look over a baby, especially if your little one is deep asleep. Your infant will be even more out-of-sight and out-of-mind due to legislation requiring rear-facing child seats and today’s big SUVs.

Recently, a parent drove over to a friend’s house to play cards when he experienced the aforementioned memory lapse. It was partially cloudy and about 70 degrees outside. He hurried outside when he heard a commotion to discover his neighbors trying to save his baby inside. Sadly, the infant had passed away from heat stroke. A criminal charge of abandoning a child in a moving vehicle was brought against the father.

At least 14 states throughout the US, including Texas, have passed laws targeting leaving children unattended in automobiles due to occurrences like this and incidences of carjackings, accidents, fires, and carbon monoxide asphyxiation. The President enacted the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007 in February 2008, which mandates that the Department of Transportation produce regulations regarding rearward visibility, power window safety, and rollaway prevention. This legislation will make it harder for children to engage the gearbox while inside a moving vehicle inadvertently.

Children left alone in parked cars, especially in summer, risk tragic accidents. The risk to life increases significantly whether or not kids are left in cars with the windows slightly down. This is because, in the summer, the enclosed environment of a car can get hotter over 125 degrees in just fifteen minutes.

In other seasons, leaving kids in cars can be risky for various reasons. Heatstroke and other diseases or symptoms like red, hot, and dry skin; rapid pulse; headache; dizziness; nausea; vomiting; and unconsciousness might happen from leaving a youngster in a parked car.

Heatstroke can be lethal if not treated right away. Heatstroke can occasionally result in long-term medical problems, such as brain damage.

Children, who are already at risk, are at considerably greater risk since they are less able than adults to control their body temperatures.

The chance of kidnapping and other such crimes also rises when a youngster is left in a car. This is particularly important if you have left the kid in a running car with the ignition on.

What Penalties Apply When Children Are Left Unattended in Parked Vehicles? What Other Repercussions Could Leaving a Child in a Car Have?

State and local regulations are now being implemented, even though there is no federal legislation against leaving children unattended in parked cars. These regulations may enable police to issue citations to anyone who leaves a youngster under the legal age in a vehicle without the child’s guardian present. Such tickets frequently cost between $100 and $300, plus expensive court costs that vary by jurisdiction. If a child is left unattended in a car, you could receive a fine at the very least.

The adult who left the child in the car is likely to face more severe legal repercussions if the child suffers any injury due to being left there. Criminal charges, which can result in jail time, probation, community service, or additional criminal fines, are examples of this.

A private lawsuit brought by the kid’s parents may be brought against the person who left the child in the car if they are not the child’s parents, such as a babysitter. If the kid dies, the claim is typically made under a negligence or recklessness basis of law and frequently results in wrongful death damages. In such litigation, damages awards and other legal remedies can be granted.

In some circumstances, if a parent leaves a child alone in a car but the youngster does not perish, the parent may still be held accountable for their actions. The intervention of child protective services (“CPS”), which may take harsh measures like removing the child from the parent, would be the most obvious example of this. Other parental rights, such as the right to child custody or visitation, could also be taken away from the parent.

The responsible adult may also be accused of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment. As previously indicated, serious situations may also lead to charges of reckless endangerment.

Are There Any Justifications for Leaving a Child in an Unattended Car?

Although leaving a child unsupervised in a moving vehicle is a highly serious offense, individuals can have legal protection. The available defenses will vary from case to case because each will likely have unique circumstances surrounding the incident. How legal defenses are applied may also vary between states.

Examples of potential defenses include the following:

  • Emergency/Need: Indicates whether the person left the child alone because of an emergency or out of sheer necessity. This might happen, for instance, if a natural disaster or other looming threat separates the child from the adult and forces them to be left in the automobile;
  • Coercion: When someone leaves a youngster unsupervised out of compulsion or under threat of punishment. An extremely concrete illustration of this would be if the parent or other responsible adult were forced to leave their automobile while the child was still within it while being held at gunpoint. Similar circumstances include being robbed or participating in a carjacking while being separated from the vehicle with the youngster still inside;
  • Drunkenness: In some jurisdictions, intoxication may be used as a defense, particularly where it prevents a person from acting deliberately or willfully. This defense would be especially strong if the person were drunk without their knowledge or consent. If someone else slipped them a pill, that would be an illustration of this; and
  • Insanity: This defense requires that the defendant had a significant mental disorder or other defects at the time of the incident. This defense typically relies on physical or mental impairments that limit the person’s capacity to develop the intentional purpose required to conduct a particular crime. But in many instances, it might be challenging to establish this defense.
    • Additionally, bringing this up in court might be risky because the offender might be subject to additional penalties like being forced to receive medical or psychological therapy. The individual will then have a history of a mental illness or defect, which may impact other aspects of their life. If the court decides they are not mentally fit to care for a child, they could lose custody of the child.

Should I Get a Lawyer if I’m Facing Criminal Charges for Leaving a Child in a Car?

You should speak with a local criminal attorney as soon as possible if you are being investigated for leaving a child in a moving vehicle. An experienced and local criminal attorney will be most qualified to comprehend how your state’s particular laws will affect your legal alternatives because state laws on the subject vary so considerably.

Based on the particulars of your case, an attorney will also be able to assist you in determining whether you are entitled to any legal defenses. Finally, a lawyer can act as your advocate in court.

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