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Did You Know Leaving a Child in a Vehicle is a Crime?

Parents have many responsibilities, and dragging a child around is a real hassle. Nonetheless, Texas has criminalized leaving young children unattended in a vehicle. Should anything happen to the child while alone, such as passing out from heat stroke or other injury, parents could face additional criminal charges. Please contact Tad Nelson & Associates right away if your child is injured while left in a vehicle. Our Galveston criminal defense lawyer will discuss whether you can defend yourself and how.

Leave a Young Child Unattended is a Class C Misdemeanor

Texas Penal Code 22.10 makes it a Class C misdemeanor to intentionally or knowingly leave a child younger than 7 alone in a vehicle for longer than 5 minutes. You can also be convicted if the only other person in the vehicle with your child is also under age 14. So leaving two children alone together could be a crime.

Five minutes isn’t much time. Someone running in to cash a check could end up standing in line for 5 minutes before they ever speak to a teller. The same is true if you want to dash into a grocery store to pick up a few items. Admittedly, parents do this all the time, and they don’t get arrested—but only because no one reports them.

If convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, you could face a $500 fine and thankfully no jail time. But you will now have a criminal record.

You Face Harsher Charges if Your Child is Hurt

What happens if your child gets injured alone in that vehicle? Another section of the Penal Code makes it a felony if your child suffers a bodily injury or serious mental impairment. In warmer weather, your child could suffer heat stroke if left unattended in a car. Remember, a child’s body heats up 3-5 times faster than an adult’s, so they could suffer injury rather quickly.

The law criminalizes any act or omission that results in bodily injury or serious mental impairment/deficiency to a child under 14. The penalties will depend on your mental state and the seriousness of the injury:

  • First-degree felony: Serious bodily injury or serious mental impairment due to an intentional or knowing act or omission.
  • Second-degree felony: Serious bodily injury/mental impairment because of your reckless act or omission.
  • Thirddegree felony. Minor bodily injury because of a knowing or intentional act or omission.
  • State jail felony. A minor bodily injury caused by recklessness, or any injury (no matter how severe) caused by criminal negligence.

Imagine if it is 100 degrees out and you leave your baby in the car with the windows up. You know it is hot and you know the risks to your child. If your baby suffers heat stroke, you could face either first-degree or third-degree felony charge depending on the seriousness of the injury.

Child Protective Services Could Get Involved

This is an element of child injury cases few criminal defense attorneys know about. If your child is hurt, then a CPS caseworker could be at your door, demanding answers. You certainly need a seasoned Galveston criminal defense attorney to represent you. Call The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today.