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Leaving a child in a car can have serious legal consequences

Every summer, we hear or read at least one horrific story about a child who died in a hot car because a parent left him or her in there accidentally. Therefore, it's only natural that when some people see a child alone in a car, even if the little one seems perfectly fine, their first instinct is to call 911. On a hot day, that action could in fact save a child's life.

Once the authorities become involved, people can face criminal charges -- even if they only left a child for a few minutes while they ran in to pick up their dry cleaning on a comfortable spring day. Connecticut parents and other caregivers can be arrested for leaving a child unattended. Depending on the situation, they could face misdemeanor or even felony charges.

No one should ever leave children unattended in a locked car or let them have access to vehicles that are unlocked. They can crawl into trunks and not be able, or not know how, to get out. Further, whenever you park your car and leave, you should be in the habit of checking both your front and backseat. These actions can prevent a tragedy.

However, conscientious, well-meaning parents and caregivers can find themselves in serious trouble for leaving a child alone in a car. In our state, if a child under 12 is left unsupervised in a vehicle or public place, the parent or guardian responsible for leaving him or her could face a Class A misdemeanor charge if it's determined that the child's safety or health was at substantial risk.

In some cases, Connecticut residents can face felony charges involving the risk of potential injury to anyone under 16. This can occur if a defendant is alleged to have put the child at risk of injury or endangered his or her health. Leaving a child in a hot car, even if the child is unharmed, can still constitute putting that child's health at risk.

Anyone who finds themselves facing charges related to leaving a child unattended in a car should seek legal guidance. Even if you feel that the person who called the police was a busybody and that your child was in no danger, the legal consequences, and the impact on your life, could be significant.

Source: WTNH News 8, "Breakdown of criminal charges after kids left in hot cars," Alex Ceneviva, accessed May. 31, 2015

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