Statistics collected by Jan Null of the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science at San Jose State University for the website No Heat Stroke show that 910 children have died due to Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke (PVH) since 1998. This total included 23 pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths in 2021, 25 pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths in 2020, and 53 pediatric vehicular heatstroke deaths in both 2019 and 2018, with an annual average of 38 child heatstroke fatalities per year since 1998.
Texas makes it a criminal offense for any parent or legal guardian to leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle. Criminal charges can further be enhanced to more serious crimes if a child sustains injuries because they were left alone in a motor vehicle.
Leaving a Child in a Vehicle Defense Lawyer in Denton, Frisco, Lewisville, Flower Mound, TX
If you or a loved one have been arrested for allegedly leaving a child in a motor vehicle in the Denton area, you will want to act quickly to find legal representation right away. Make sure you speak to an attorney before you say anything to police officers.
Do not wait another moment to call The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy. Our firm can help you understand all of your legal options when you call (940) 222-8004 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Texas Leaving a Child in a Vehicle Charges
Texas Penal Code § 22.10 establishes that a person commits the criminal offense of leaving a child in a vehicle when they intentionally or knowingly leave a child in a motor vehicle for more than five minutes when they know that the child is:
- less than seven years of age; and
- not being attended to by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older.
Leaving a child in a vehicle is typically a Class C misdemeanor, but alleged offenders can face enhanced charges if leaving a child in a vehicle results in injuries or death. In such cases, a prosecutor may charge an alleged offender with abandoning or endangering a child.
Under Texas Penal Code § 22.041(a), the word abandon is defined as leaving a child in any place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child, under circumstances under which no reasonable, similarly situated adult would leave a child of that age and ability.
Texas Penal Code § 22.041(b) states that a person commits the crime of abandoning or endangering a child when, having custody, care, or control of a child younger than 15 years of age, they intentionally abandon the child in any place under circumstances that expose the child to an unreasonable risk of harm. This offense is a state jail felony when an alleged offender abandons a child with the intent to return for the child but becomes a third-degree felony if an alleged offender abandons a child without the intent to return and is a second-degree felony if the alleged offender abandons the child under any circumstances that a reasonable person would have reason to believe would place a child in imminent danger of death, bodily injury, or physical or mental impairment.
An alleged offender may also be charged with injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual as established under Texas Penal Code § 22.04(a). Injury to a child cases are frequently classified based on whether a person acted intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence, either by act or intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly by omission.
The culpable mental states are defined under Texas Penal Code § 6.03 according to the following relative degrees, from highest to lowest:
- A person acts intentionally, or with intent, in regards to the nature of their alleged conduct or to a result of their alleged conduct when it is their conscious desire or objective to engage in the conduct or cause the result.
- A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, in regards to the nature of their alleged conduct or to circumstances surrounding their alleged conduct when they are aware of the nature of their alleged conduct or that the circumstances exist, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of their alleged conduct when they are aware that the conduct is reasonably certain to cause a result.
- A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, in regards to alleged circumstances surrounding their alleged conduct or the result of their alleged conduct when they are aware of but consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or a result will occur. The risk has to be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor’s standpoint.
- A person acts with criminal negligence, or is criminally negligent, with respect to circumstances surrounding their alleged conduct or the result of their alleged conduct when they should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the3 circumstances exist or a result will occur. Such a risk needs to be of such a nature and degree that failure to recognize it will constitute a gross deviation from the standard of care an ordinary person would exercise under all of the circumstances as viewed from the alleged offender’s standpoint.
If an alleged offender recklessly causes bodily injury to a child, or just causes a serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury, or causes bodily injury to a child because of criminal negligence, the criminal offense will be a state jail felony. When a person intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to a child, then the crime will be a third-degree felony.
When a person recklessly causes serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to the child, and that person is an employee of the center or facility whose employment involved providing direct care for the alleged victim, then injury to a child is a second-degree felony.
Denton Leaving a Child in a Vehicle Penalties
The penalty difference between leaving a child in a vehicle offenses and other associated crimes is plainly clear. Leaving a child in a vehicle will be a misdemeanor offense that has no imprisonment risk, but other charges have far steeper penalties.
Convictions will generally be punishable by:
- Class C misdemeanor — Fines of up to $500
- State Jail Felony — Fines of up to $10,000 and/or up to two years in state jail
- Third-Degree Felony — Fines of up to $10,000 and/o up to 10 years in prison
- Second-Degree Felony — Fines of up to $10,000 and/or up to 20 years in prison
The period of time a child is left alone usually is the basis for possible abandoning or endangering a child’s offenses, and injury to a child charges only results from cases resulting in actual injuries.
Texas Leaving a Child in a Vehicle Defenses
Many parents are charged with the offense of leaving a child in a vehicle when they stepped away from automobiles for only brief periods of time. For example, a parent could have run into a store to simply grab a single item and become delayed by a long line or something else that caused a child to be alone in a vehicle for an extended period of time.
While the Texas state law was designed to encourage parents to not leave children unattended in motor vehicles, overzealous prosecution of these offenses often leads to many parents being charged with crimes when there was absolutely no criminal intent. An experienced attorney will be able to explain to prosecutors how a parent or guardian was not going to allow a child to suffer any kind of harm while being left in an automobile.
Denton County Leaving a Child in a Vehicle Resources
Child Supervision | Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) — DFPS states on this frequently asked questions (FAQs) section of its website that you should not leave a child alone in a motor vehicle for any length of time. The website states that leaving a child unattended in a car is a form of neglectful supervision investigated by Child Protective Services. You can also find FAQs related to neglectful supervision and how old children need to stay home alone.
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS): Leaving Children in Vehicles Can Be Deadly — This is a 28, 2017 press release from DPS about summer temperatures increasing the risk of vehicular heatstroke. As the release notes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said temperatures inside a car can rise more than 20 degrees in only 10 minutes. You can also find links to information about preventing child heatstroke in cars and pet safety.
Find A Denton County Defense Attorney for Leaving a Child in a Vehicle Charges | Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy
Were you or a loved one recently arrested for allegedly leaving a child in a vehicle in Denton or a surrounding area of Texas? You need to take the criminal charges seriously and make sure you invest in a solid defense.