It’s a hot summer day and you are out running errands with your toddler. You park in a convenience store parking lot and notice that your baby is asleep in the car seat. You decide to quickly run into the store, leaving your child in the car unattended. Can you be arrested for leaving a child in a vehicle in Texas?
In Texas, it is a crime – a misdemeanor – to leave a young child in a vehicle for more than five minutes unattended. If the child is injured or dies as a result of being left in the car – tragedies we sometimes see in the brutal summer heat – you could be charged with a serious felony.
In this article, we are going to discuss the law and the potential consequences of leaving a child in a vehicle in Texas. We will also give some real examples of when this has happened and why police and prosecutors take this offense so seriously.
If you or a loved one has been accused of leaving a child in a vehicle, it is extremely important to contact an experienced defense attorney immediately. Not only could you be facing criminal charges, but Child Protective Service (CPS) could also get involved. Our team has handled dozens of cases involving crimes against children – first as highly-skilled prosecutors and now as highly-coveted defense attorneys. We can help.
Under Texas Penal Code 22.10, a person commits an offense if he or she intentionally or knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the child is:
As you can see, briefly leaving a child in a vehicle is not always illegal. Still, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you are leaving a child in the car, even for just a minute, make sure that the child is supervised by someone 14 years of age or older.
In Texas, it is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $500 fine for leaving a child in a vehicle in Texas. This offense is classified as neglectful supervision, which means CPS will also likely get notified and may launch their own investigation. If evidence of child abuse or neglect is found, the child could be removed from your home.
As we mentioned earlier, if the child suffers bodily injury or dies as a result of being left in the car, you could be facing much more serious charges – including a felony charge of endangering a child. We will discuss that next.
There are several scenarios that could result in a felony charge of endangering a child, stemming from leaving a child in a vehicle unattended. In Texas, child endangerment occurs when someone puts a child under the age of 15 at risk of injury, disablement or death.
We often see this charge when people leave their children locked in hot vehicles and the child suffers from a heat-related illness or death. We also sometimes see this charge when a car is stolen with a child inside.
It’s important to note that the child does not have to be your own to be accused of child endangerment. The act also doesn’t have to be intentional. For example, you could be charged with child endangerment if you accidentally left your child in a hot vehicle and the child became ill or died.
Child endangerment is generally a state jail felony, punishable by six months to two years in a state jail facility and maximum $10,000 fine. It’s important to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to find out exactly what punishment you could be facing if you have been accused of leaving a child in a vehicle in Texas.
If you see a child or pet locked in a hot car and they appear to be in distress, you can break the window to get them out without fear of repercussion. Texas law protects you from being charged under the Good Samaritan Act, which allows people to administer emergency care without being held liable for damages.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for leaving a child in a vehicle, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The police and CPS are going to want to speak with you – something you should not do without an attorney present. Varghese Summersett has a team of experienced criminal defense attorneys who previously served as specially trained child abuse prosecutors. We know how to defend these cases and will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome for you and your family. Call us today at 817-203-2220 for a free consultation. We handle cases in North Texas, including Tarrant and Dallas and counties.