The New York Criminal Law Blog

Leaving Kids in Your Car Can Get You Arrested

Leaving kids in your car is a crime? Actually, it is, and yes, you can get arrested for it.

Leaving your child in your car for a few minutes while you run into the store to pick up some milk, or even to drop off a letter in a mailbox, can lead to dire consequences. These acts may seem innocent, and for most parents, they're done with no harmful intentions.

But the law may not be so lenient. Regardless of your intentions or even if your young one asks to stay in your car, you can potentially get arrested.

If your child is left alone in a car and is somehow harmed because of it, you will very likely get arrested and charged under the category of child abuse.

Child abuse in New York is defined as injury by other than accidental means causing death, disfigurement, impairment of physical or emotional health of a child. But it also includes deliberate indifference in causing such injury, which the courts might find if your child is injured from your oversight.

Here are two other specific charges that a parent might get for leaving kids unattended in a vehicle:

  • Child endangerment. New York law finds that there is child endangerment when a parent knowingly acts in a manner likely to be harmful to the physical, mental, or moral welfare of a child under 17. One of the most common scenarios under this charge is when a parent leaves her baby in a car on a hot day. A parent, as courts will often find, should know better than to leave an infant in a car, especially if it's sweltering.
  • Manslaughter. There are unfortunately instances where parents leaving their kids in a car takes a tragic turn and the child ends up dying. Again, this is common when babies are left in hot cars. But, a number of other things can lead to the death of a child in a car, such as dehydration or being kidnapped. New York law classifies an unintentional, unplanned killing under second-degree murder, which can result in a life term in prison when the victim is under 14 years old.

For children who survive being left in hot vehicles, child protective services will often remove them from a parent's home, at least temporarily. If you're being accused of endangerment or abuse because you left a child in a car, you may want to get an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer on your side.

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