September 7, 2011 By Wallin & Klarich

You’re running into a store to grab some groceries, returning a video rental or picking some medicine from a pharmacy. You decide that there is little or no harm to leave your young child in the car unattended for a few minutes. The next thing you know you return to your car to find the police waiting for you. You are then either arrested or charged with a misdemeanor or felony or you are cited for an infraction. Someone has called the cops to report that you left your child in the car and now you are in major trouble. The bottom line is that leaving a child who is age six or younger unattended in your vehicle is against the law.

Under California Vehicle Code Section 15620, it directly states a parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who is 6 years of age or younger may not leave that child inside a motor vehicle without being subject to the supervision of a person who is 12 years of age or older, under either of the following circumstances: (1) Where there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child’s health or safety. (2) When the vehicle’s engine is running or the vehicle’s keys are in the ignition, or both.

In a recent case we handled, a young mother left her infant in her car unattended in vehicle for 5-10 minutes while grabbing some medicine for the child from the pharmacy. Pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 15620 (b) the punishment for this violation is a fine of one hundred dollars (which ends up really costing almost $500) and can also require any defendant to attend a education program on the dangers of leaving young children unattended in motor vehicles. In this woman’s case, the police officer did our client a favor and only cited her for an infraction. In fact the police officer could have arrested her for a much more serious offense and could have called child protective services to have her child taken from her and put into protective custody.

In fact, in the discretion of the prosecuting attorney a defendant in the situation outlined above can be arrested and charged with a violation of California Penal Code 273A and if found guilty of child endangerment which can be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year if filed a misdemeanor or if filed as a felony for two, four or six years in state prison.

Often young parents forget that leaving a young child in a vehicle can lead to serious injury or death to the child. Especially when the summary temperatures rise, having a young child in a hot car for just a few minutes can lead to serious injury. In addition leaving your car running with your child in the car can lead to your vehicle as well as your child being taken by someone who decides to take your car. It should be clear that child endangerment is a serious criminal offense. If you or a loved one have been accused or charged with leaving a child unattended in a car, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin and Klarich, we have over 30 years of experienced handling this type of matters and can assist you in obtaining the best possible result in your case. Call the law firm of Wallin& Klarich today at, (888) 749-0034 to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your case. We will be there when you call.

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