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Is it a Crime to Leave a Child in a Car Unsupervised in Texas?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Fort Worth child crimes defense attorney

Fall is just around the corner, but the hot weather in Texas has not relented. Many news outlets have run stories about the dangers of leaving children in cars during hot weather. Even when the outside temperature is only in the 70s or 80s, the temperature inside a car can climb much higher. Children left in hot vehicles can quickly become overheated and even die due to the extreme temperatures. According to the nonprofit group Kids and Cars, over 600 children have passed away in hot cars in the United States since 1990. You probably know that leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is dangerous, but you may wonder if it is considered a crime. In certain circumstances, leaving a child in a vehicle unattended constitutes a criminal charge in Texas.

Texas Penal Code Regarding Children Left in Cars

According to Texas law, there are certain situations in which it is against the law to leave a child unsupervised in a vehicle. The Texas Penal Code states that is a Class C misdemeanor criminal offense to knowingly leave a child in a motor vehicle if the child is all of the following: 

  • Under the age of 7

  • Left in the vehicle for longer than five minutes

  • Not accompanied by another person aged 14 years or older

If you are convicted of a Class C misdemeanor offense for leaving a young child in a car without proper supervision, you could be fined up to $500. In addition to a fine of up to $500, leaving a young child in a car unattended can also lead to accusations of “neglectful supervision” under the Texas Family Code. Neglectful supervision can include any situation in which a child is left in a potentially dangerous circumstance. Knowingly placing a child in a situation in which he or she is at a substantial risk of sexual conduct or bodily injury can constitute neglectful supervision. Although neglectful supervision is not a criminal charge, being accused of this violation could result in an investigation from Child Protection Services and, if further evidence of neglect or abuse is discovered, potential removal of the child from the home.

Defending Criminal Charges Against a Child

One key component of the criminal offense of leaving a child in a car unattended is that a conviction requires intent. If you can prove that you did not knowingly leave the child unsupervised in the vehicle, you may avoid a conviction. For example, if you believed that an adult or another child over age 14 was going to be in the car with the young child and could account for his or her safety, you did not intentionally leave the child unattended in the vehicle.

Contact a Collin County Criminal Defense Attorney

Because children have died after being left in hot cars, Texas takes the issue of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle extremely seriously. If you have been charged with this or another crime related to child abuse, you need help from an experienced Plano, Texas child crimes defense lawyer. The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. has obtained more than 200 acquittals and not-guilty verdicts for clients accused of a wide variety of criminal offenses. We can help you build a solid defense against any charges related to crimes against a child. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call our office today at 214-303-9600.

Sources:
https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/PE/pdf/PE.22.pdf
https://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/hot-cars-and-child-death-prevention#1
https://texas.public.law/statutes/tex._fam._code_section_261.001

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