The New York Criminal Law Blog

Legal to Leave Your Kids in the Car While You Run Errands?

A Long Island man is facing child endangerment charges after he left his two children locked in a car in the winter weather while he went shopping.

32-year-old Luis Fajardo left his 5-year-old and 5-month-old sons inside the car while he went shopping. At the time, the outside temperature was about 25 degrees, New York's WCBS reports.

Is it generally illegal to leave kids in the car while you run errands?

Child Endangerment

Generally speaking, parents must adequately supervise their children. Failure to do so can constitute child abuse or neglect. As Fajardo learned the hard way, leaving a child in a car can lead to abuse-related charges such as child endangerment.

Under New York law, a parent commits an act of child endangerment when he or she knowingly acts in a manner likely to be harmful to the physical, mental, or moral welfare of a child under 17. It encompasses almost any circumstance involving improper caretaking of children, including leaving children unattended in a car.

The issue of parents leaving their kids in a car is a hotly contested debate, but the law often holds that the act constitutes child endangerment because it presents significant risk of injury to children. In New Jersey, for example, a state appeals court recently found that leaving a child unattended while shopping for five to ten minutes was a form of abuse or neglect, The Star-Ledger reports.

New Child Endangerment Law

Underscoring just how seriously the state takes the issue, the New York State Senate unanimously passed a bill in 2012 that would make it illegal to leave children under eight years old unattended in a car when conditions, such as hot and cold weather, present a risk to safety of the child. Such situations would require supervision by someone 12 or older. Multiple violations would lead to a misdemeanor charge.

Although the legislation is still moving through the pipeline, the takeaway is clear: The state takes the issue seriously. When you leave a child unattended to run errands, even briefly, you risk criminal penalties.

If you're being accused of endangerment or abuse because you left a child in a car, you may want to consult an experienced New York criminal defense lawyer to explore your legal options.

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