A question from Nicole S. in Dallas: “I left my sleeping baby in the car for two minutes while I ran inside the school to pick up my fourth grader. It was a cool, overcast day and the school is in a safe neighborhood. The teacher directing traffic saw me and threatened to call the police the next time she saw me leave the baby in the car. Is it ever okay to leave a child alone in a car?”
Don’t ever leave your kid alone in the car…
There are many reasons why leaving your child alone in a car is a terrible idea. The temperature inside a car can get dangerously hot, even in moderate weather with the windows down. Kids can suffer from heat stroke causing serious injuries and sometimes death. Leaving the car running with the air conditioner on is not going to make your kid safe. A kid could put the car in drive, get caught in a closing power window, or be abducted.
…but if you do leave your kid alone in the car, is it a crime?
It only takes a second for something horrific to happen. But assuming your child is not in danger, is it a crime?
In Texas, a parent can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for intentionally leaving any child 7 years or younger unattended or left with a child under 14 in a car for more than five minutes. If the child is injured as a result of being left in the car, the crime can be increased to a felony, punishable by up to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
In Nicole’s case, since she left a child under the age of five alone in a car, if the police had been called, she could have been charged with a crime. If she had instead left her baby in the car with her 10 year old daughter, assuming there are no other dangers (see above) and she was back in five minutes, she would not have been charged with a crime.
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