Times have changed dramatically since a generation or two ago. In the 1970s,
1980s, and even the 1990s, it was not uncommon for parents to run errands
and leave their children alone in their cars. Shopping with young children
can be difficult, and in the past it was socially acceptable to leave
children in vehicles, at least when it wasn't hot, but these days
parents cannot get away with it so easily.
When questioning the legality of leaving a child alone in a vehicle, it
will depend upon the age of the child, the temperature, and how long the
parent leaves the child alone in the vehicle.
While it may not be an issue to leave a 13-year-old alone in the car on
a 65 degree day while you run into the bank for 10 minutes, the scenario
changes drastically when you leave a 24-month-old alone in the car as
you go grocery shopping for 30 minutes on a 100 degree day.
Georgia is known for being very warm and humid during the summer months.
With that being said, law enforcement and child protective agencies alike
are on the lookout for parents who leave their children of any age alone
in hot vehicles because even a short period in a hot vehicle can cause
heat exhaustion and lead to death.
What about other times of year? Is it legal to leave a child alone in a
vehicle for an extended period of time, even when it is not hot out? While
there is not a specific child endangerment statute in Georgia that addresses
leaving children alone in vehicles, a parent can face criminal repercussions
for leaving their child alone in a vehicle, especially if their child
is young, or if they leave a child alone inside a hot vehicle.
Can I face criminal charges?
While some states punish child endangerment as child abuse, In Georgia,
leaving a child alone in a vehicle can be prosecuted under reckless conduct
or second-degree child cruelty.
Under O.C.G.A. 15-5-60 (b), a person can face reckless conduct charges
whenever they cause bodily harm to or endangers the bodily safety of another
person by disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk. If a parent
is charged with reckless conduct after leaving their child alone in a
vehicle, they will be guilty of a misdemeanor offense.
On the other hand, if a parent's criminal negligence causes their child
cruel or excessive physical or mental pain, the parent can be charged
with second-degree child cruelty under Section 16-5-70(c), which is punishable
by one to ten years in prison.
If got into trouble for leaving your child alone in a vehicle, your charges
will depend upon the circumstances of your case and whether or not your
child suffered any actual physical or emotional harm as a result of your actions.
If you are facing criminal charges for leaving your child alone in a vehicle,
you are urged to contact a Marietta criminal defense attorney from Henrickson
& Sereebutra, LLC. Not only are the attorneys former prosecutors,
but they have over 40 years of collective experience to offer you. Don't
risk your future,
call the firm now!