Leaving a Child in a Hot Car—Accident or Crime?

It is almost every parent’s worst nightmare—they forget to drop their infant or toddler off at daycare and accidentally leave the child in the car while they are at work all day. Summer temperatures can rise into the 100s, but even lower temperatures outside can cause the temperature inside a closed car to increase to deadly levels. Unfortunately, many parents in this situation do not discover their mistake until after the workday, and by then it is usually too late to save their child’s life. This tragic situation reportedly happens several times per month in the United States during the summer months. The nonprofit group Kids in Cars reports that 44 children died of heat stroke in cars in 2013 alone, and 15 have died so far in 2014.

Criminal Charges for Parents

The nightmare for these parents is sadly only beginning, however. Not only is such an event covered in widespread media, but leaving your child in a hot car may lead to serious criminal charges. Last year a man whose two-year-old son died faced Illinois state charges of involuntary manslaughter and endangering of the welfare of a child. The law regarding endangering the welfare of a child specifically states that a child six years old or younger will be considered unattended and therefore endangered if they are left in a car for ten minutes or more if there is no one 14 years old or older accompanying them. Endangering the welfare of a child is usually a Class A misdemeanor, which means a potential fine up to $2,500, probation, or even up to one year in jail. If the child dies as a result of the endangerment, a prosecutor may charge the parent with a Class 3 felony, which could mean fines up to $25,000, probation, or two to ten years in prison.

Under some circumstances, charges for parents who leave a child in a hot car may be more severe. For example, a father in Georgia recently was under serious scrutiny when police suspected he may have left his two year old son in the car on purpose. That father is not only facing child cruelty charges, but also allegations of murder. Prosecutors cite evidence found on the father’s cell phone and computers that led them to believe he intentionally left his son in the hot car. In such situations, a highly skilled defense attorney is necessary to present evidence and arguments that the death was an accident and not intentional.

Contact a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney for Assistance

If you have been charged with any type of criminal offense, you want to make sure you hire an attorney who will aggressively defend your case and will work to cast doubt on the prosecutor’s and law enforcement officers’ accusations. Attorney Steven Goldman is a skilled and seasoned criminal defense attorney who knows how to navigate the Chicago criminal justice system to get his clients the best results possible. Contact Goldman & Associates today to schedule a free case evaluation.

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