Generally speaking, is it illegal to leave kids in the car while you run errands?

First and foremost, parents are tasked with adequately supervising their children. A parent who fails to do so can be charged with child abuse or neglect. In some cases, leaving a child unsupervised in a car can lead to abuse-related charges such as endangering the welfare of a child.

In New York, 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 seventeen. This charge encompasses almost any circumstance involving improper caretaking of children, including leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.

If a parent leaves a child alone in a car, the law often holds that this act constitutes child endangerment because it presents a significant risk of injury to the child. In New Jersey, an appellate court has held that leaving a child unattended for 5-10 minutes was a form of abuse or neglect. In New York, the Senate passed a bill in 2013 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 of safety to the child. In these situations, the child must be supervised by someone twelve years of age or older. Parents who fail to supervise their children can be slapped with misdemeanor charges.

Over the summer, several parents across the county were charged with manslaughter after their infant children passed away after being left in a car for extended periods of time. It is clear that this is an issue to be taken seriously. If you leave a child unattended in a car to run errands, no matter how briefly, you risk haring that child and being charged with a crime.

Irrespective of criminal charges, allegations of neglect can result in the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) opening an investigation or initiating proceedings in Family Court. Statements made during these initial interviews with ACS caseworkers can later be used during a criminal case.

If you are accused or charged with endangering the welfare of a child, neglect or abuse, or are being investigated by ACS, you should consult an experienced New York or Brooklyn criminal defense attorney.

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