Leaving a Child in a Vehicle
You’re in a hurry to get to work. You’re exhausted because you haven’t slept well. The newbie wakes you up once or twice during the night for feeding. You’re burning the candle at both ends, and now it’s your turn to drop the baby off at daycare. You forget. You continue to work. You park in your usual parking space. You get out. You go to your job. And then the unthinkable happens…
The National Safety Council reports that each year, on average, 38 children under the age of 15 die from heatstroke after being left in a vehicle. Since 1998, almost every state has experienced at least one death, and in 2018, a record number of 52 children died after being left in a hot vehicle.
Over the past 20 years, between 1998 and 2018, 119 children in Texas and 792 children nationwide have died in vehicles as the result of heatstroke, according to statistics compiled by Jan Null, a Certified Consulting Meteorologist and Lecturer at the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science at San Jose State University, for the website No Heat Stroke.
The website provides statistical trends and patterns into the 792 deaths of children during that time period. Specifically, 54 percent of the children died as the result of caregivers simply forgetting about the children, and of those forgotten children 44 percent were on their way to childcare or preschool. In almost 19 percent of deaths, the children were knowingly left in a vehicle, and in 26 percent of deaths the children gained access to unattended vehicles.
Currently, 19 states including Texas make it a criminal offense to leave a child unattended in a vehicle. A person can face serious felony charges if a child suffers injury or death as a result of such an act.
Defense Attorney for Those Arrested for Leaving a Child in a Vehicle in Houston, TX
Were you arrested for leaving a child unattended in a vehicle in Harris County, Texas? Before talking with the authorities, contact the attorneys at James G. Sullivan & Associates.
Houston criminal defense attorney James Sullivan defends clients charged with crimes involving children in Cypress, Katy, Spring, Sugar Land, Humble, Pasadena, Conroe, The Woodlands, Richmond and many other cities in and around Greater Houston. Call us at (281) 546-6428 for a free confidential consultation with an experienced attorney.
At James G. Sullivan and Associates the attorneys understand that mistakes happen. We are dedicated to defending our clients and providing the best possible result. Getting your criminal charge dismissed or reduced may be possible. Contact us for a free consultation. An experienced trial lawyer will talk with you about your charges, the potential consequences, and any defense theories that may apply. James G. Sullivan and Associates represents clients in Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties.
What Are the Legal Elements of Leaving a Child in a Vehicle in Texas?
Texas Penal Code Section 22.10 defines the crime of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. According to this law, to find someone guilty of this crime the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements:
- A person leaves a child in a motor vehicle for more than five minutes;
- the person does so intentionally and knowingly;
- the person knows that the child is younger than seven years of age; and
- the person knows that the child is not under the supervision of another person in the vehicle who is at least 14 years old.
Leaving a child in a hot car can lead to additional charges of child endangerment or worse. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it’s important for parents, caregivers, or even bystanders to understand that children are more vulnerable to heatstroke than adults. The body temperature of a child rises three to five times faster than that of an adult. When left in a hot vehicle, a child’s temperature can rise quickly and could lead to death. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees. A core body temperature of about 107 degrees is lethal. In 2018, 52 children died of vehicular heatstroke.
Punishment for Leaving a Child in a Vehicle in Harris County
Leaving a child in a vehicle is a class C misdemeanor. If found guilty of this charge, you could be fined up to $500. Class C misdemeanors do not include the possibility of jail time as punishment.
Parents face felony charges if the child suffers injury or death from being left in a vehicle.
If you leave a child in a car for a long period of time, you could be charged with Abandoning or Endangering a Child under Texas Penal Code Section 22.041. Under this statute, “abandon” means “to leave a child in any place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child, under circumstances under which no reasonable, similarly situated adult would leave a child of that age and ability.”
If you intentionally abandon a child younger than 15 years of age under circumstances where the child is exposed to an unreasonable risk of harm, you could be charged with a state jail felony punishable by a term of incarceration between 180 days and two years and/or a fine up to $10,000.
If a child suffers injuries, you may be charged with Injury to a Child under Texas Penal Code Section 22.04. Under this statute, it is a state jail felony if you recklessly cause bodily injury to a child or cause serious bodily injury, serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury, or bodily injury as the result of criminal negligence.
If you abandon the child without intending to return for the child, you could be charged with a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
If you intentionally or knowingly cause bodily injury to a child, you could be charged with a third degree felony. If you recklessly cause serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a child, you could be charged with a second degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. If you intentionally or knowingly cause serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a child, you could be charged with a first degree felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
If the child dies while left alone in the vehicle, you could be charged with criminally negligent homicide under Texas Penal Code Section 19.05.
Houston Defense Lawyer for Leaving a Child in a Vehicle
If you were arrested for leaving a child in a vehicle in southeast Texas, it is in your best interest to retain experienced legal counsel. James G. Sullivan & Associates represent individuals throughout Harris County, Montgomery County and Fort Bend County.
James Sullivan graduated from Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, the most selective and prestigious trial advocacy program in America. Sullivan has a proven record of defending people from all walks of life, faiths and countries in courts throughout Texas.
James Sullivan is an experienced criminal defense trial lawyer in Houston who understands that many people accused of this crime simply had a lapse in judgment and no criminal intent. Sullivan will fight for the best result. Call us at (281) 546-6428 for a free confidential consultation and evaluation of your case with an experienced attorney.