UNATTENDED CHILD in
States with EXISTING LAWS
- 21 states have Unattended Child
in Vehicle Laws that have specific language addressing leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.
However, many of
these laws have significant exceptions and qualifiers in
- Two states' (Alabama and
Wisconsin) laws only apply to paid child care providers.
- Two states' (Kentucky and Missouri) laws only apply if a
child is injured or dies.
states allow a period of time a child may be left unattended
before it becomes a crime. Florida allows 15-minutes,
Illinois allows 10-minutes and both Hawaii and Texas
Washington's law only applies to a running vehicle or
one parked outside a tavern or similar establishment.
- Rhode Island's
law only allows for a verbal warning and no
record can be kept!
- The remaining 29 states do not have laws specifically
prohibiting the leaving a child unattended in a vehicle;
but injuries and deaths can be prosecuted under child endangerment,
manslaughter and homicide statutes.
California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois,
Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada,
Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas,
Utah, Washington, Wisconsin
Model Legislation: see
A total of 31 states have laws
about leaving animals unattended in vehicles.
OTHER RELATED LAWS
- In 2015, a Texas
law was enacted requiring hospitals,
birthing centers, midwifes and associated medical
professions to provide education about "the danger of
heatstroke for a child left
unattended in a motor
upon discharge from the hospital
after giving birth.
- In New Jersey a
law that "Requires parent or guardian to notify
child care centers if child will be absent; requires child
care centers to notify parent or guardian in event of
unexcused child absence" was enacted in 2021.
GOOD SAMARITAN LAWS
- There are
23 states with
"Good Samaritan Laws" with specific language that protects persons who see a child in a car and take action to render assistance.
Case Examination of Factors Impacting Charges in Cases
Involving Children Left in Hot Cars
M.L., et. al.;
Poster Presented at American Psychology-Law Society
Conference, Portland, OR, March 2019)
- Study of 427 cases
"forgotten" and "knowingly left" from 2000 to 2016
- Charges filed in 44% of
"forgotten" cases, and 71% of "knowingly left".
- Paid providers more likely to
be charges and got longer sentences than parents
- The complete poster can be
2005 - Associated Press (AP) study found
"Wide disparity exists in sentences for leaving kids to die in hot cars". It examined both the frequency of prosecutions and length of sentences in hyperthermia death.
- It found that charges were filed in 49% of all the deaths and 81% of those resulted in convictions.
- In cases with paid caregivers (i.e., childcare workers, babysitters) 84% were charged and 96% convicted.
- Only 7% of the cases involved drugs or alcohol.