Recently, there have been news reports of incidents in which children have been left alone in their car seats with the car locked while the parent goes shopping or leaves. Even if it is for a few minutes and the parent may not want to wake a sleeping child, it is child endangerment. This is not limited to the hot summer when the inside of a car can reach dangerously high temperatures.
We hear of cases at the mall where a parent goes to the store for a few minutes. If the child is left alone and the police are called because a concerned person reports it, the caregiver who left the child will be arrested and charged with child endangerment. This will occur even if nothing has happened to the child.
In addition to the arrest, the police will call the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. The child may be removed until the agency has completed its investigation. It is virtually certain that the person who left the child in the car will be substantiated for abuse/neglect by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. This carries with it significant problems related to employment and immigration status.
People with no criminal history, good mothers, and fathers, have made the terrible mistake of leaving children alone in the car just for a few minutes. The law simply looks at the fact of the child left in the car, not at whether the parents are otherwise good people.
It is against the law to leave a child alone in a car and parents must not do it. It is always better to wake up the baby and bring him or her with you.
Another interesting issue is when can you leave an older child alone at home – is there an age?
Tanya N. Helfand, Esq. concentrates in Family Law, she is a Certified Matrimonial Attorney and mediator. The firm welcomes your questions and inquiries at [email protected] Everything is confidential. This article is not legal advice. Please consult an attorney.