Can a Parent Face Charges for Leaving a Child Home Alone in Texas?
Parents are legally responsible for providing their children with the care and attention they need to be safe. As children get older, they gradually begin to gain the skills necessary to look after themselves. It can be hard to know when a child is responsible enough to be left alone. If you are like many parents, you may have wondered, “At what age is it appropriate to leave my child at home alone?” Texas law does not state an exact age after which a parent may leave a child at home without supervision. However, there are circumstances in which a parent can face significant civil consequences and even criminal charges for leaving a minor child home alone.
Texas Laws Regarding Child Neglect
Texas law requires parents and guardians to provide children with adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, supervision, and medical care. Failure to provide these basic necessities may constitute child neglect. A parent may also be accused of neglect if he or she allows a child to be in an unsafe situation that exposes the child to a significant risk of physical or mental harm. Child neglect is a civil offense in Texas, but it is often accompanied by criminal charges. Accusations of child neglect may lead to an investigation from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). If DFPS investigators find evidence of significant neglect or abuse, the child may be removed from the home.
The DSPS suggests that parents consider the following factors when deciding whether or not to leave a child home alone:
The child’s age, physical health, and mental health
The child’s maturity level and capacity to care for himself or herself
The child’s ability to respond to an emergency such as a fire
Any safety hazards in your home and neighborhood
Whether there is a neighbor or other dependable adult available to the child in an emergency
Criminal Penalties for Abandoning or Endangering a Child
According to the Texas Penal Code, the term “abandon” means to leave a child in any location without providing sufficient care for the child and under circumstances in which no reasonable adult would leave a child. An individual commits the offense of child abandonment if he or she:
Leaves a child under age 15 somewhere where the child is in an unreasonable risk of harm
Behaves in such a way that places a child under age 15 in imminent danger of bodily injury, physical or mental damage, or death
If an individual abandons a child but does not place the child in danger of imminent injury or death, child abandonment is a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in prison. If the child is left in a situation in which he or she is in imminent danger, the crime is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Contact a Fort Worth Child Abandonment Defense Lawyer
The state of Texas takes crimes against children seriously by issuing stiff penalties for these types of offenses. Plano, Texas criminal defense attorney Darlina Crowder has secured more than 300 acquittals and not guilty verdicts for clients accused of a range of criminal offenses. She and the rest of the accomplished team at The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. have the legal knowledge and practical experience you need when facing criminal charges for a crime against a child. To learn more, call our office today at 214-303-9600 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.