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Criminal Consequences of Leaving Children Alone in Cars


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.

Contact Henrickson & Sereebutra to get started on your free consultation.

Is it Legal to Leave a Child Alone in The Car?

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?

Child Endangerment Laws in GA

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!