As most parents know, it’s a hassle to get kids in and out of a car. So, it’s sometimes tempting to leave children in the vehicle while you quickly run into a store or drop something off at the cleaners. But leaving children unattended can be risky and result in serious and tragic consequences. To protect children against harm, some states have created laws prohibiting leaving unattended children in vehicles in certain circumstances. The rules vary by state, but the penalties can be quite severe depending on the level of endangerment or harm to the child.
Only about half of states currently have laws specifically prohibiting leaving children unattended in vehicles.
The laws of these states tend to focus on certain criteria, including:
But, again, the specifics of these laws differ by state.
Penalties for leaving a child unattended can be as low as $100. But in some states, like Florida, a violation can also result in jail time. And, repeat or more aggravated violations can be felonies and carry potential prison time. The consequences of a violation can also be more severe, and result in felony charges, if the violation resulted in the death or injury of a child.
Some states will even revoke the offender’s driver’s license.
When a child is found unattended and at risk, law enforcement officers (and sometimes regular citizens) are permitted to force entry into the vehicle and rescue the child. If the parent cannot be located, the child will generally be taken into the custody of the state.