WTNH– This year alone, 15 children nationwide have already died due to a car heat-related death. There have been many recent incidents were the parents or caregiver leaves the child in the sweltering car. Whether it is an accident or not, it’s important to understand the charges people face when they dangerously leave children in these situations.
According the the Connecticut State Police, in 2013, 44 children nationwide died due to automobile heat-related deaths. More than 500 children have died from hypothermia since 1998, from being in a hot car.
The police investigation will usually determine what the charge will be for the person responsible when the child is found in a hot car.
Here are the most common charges:
Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a Motor Vehicle
- CT Law Definition: Leaving child unsupervised in place of public accommodation or motor vehicle. (a) Any parent, guardian or person having custody or control, or providing supervision, of any child under the age of twelve years who knowingly leaves such child unsupervised in a place of public accommodation or a motor vehicle for a period of time that presents a substantial risk to the child’s health or safety, shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor. (Link to More Information)
- In Terms of a Hot Car: Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a motor vehicle would be the charge if the child is okay and is not in danger of injury/health is at risk.
- Example: East Haven mom arrested for leaving toddler and infant in the Target parking lot on July 7th and the Shelton mom arrested for leaving her 3-year-old in the Trader Joe’s parking lot on July 3rd. (Note: She was charged with both risk of injury and leaving a child under 12 unsupervised in a motor vehicle but released on a written promise to appear.)
Risk of Injury to a Minor:
- CT Law Definition: the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant willfully or unlawfully caused or permitted the minor to be placed in a situation, 2) the situation (endangered (his/her) life or limb / was likely to injure (his/her) health / was likely to impair (his/her) morals), and 3) the minor was under 16 years of age at the time.
If you unanimously find that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crime of risk of injury to a minor, then you shall find the defendant guilty. On the other hand, if you unanimously find that the state has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements, you shall then find the defendant not guilty. (Link to More Information)
- In Terms of a Hot Car: According to Lt. J Paul Vance from the Connecticut State Police, risk of injury will be the charge if the child has become lethargic/health is in danger, the child is injured.
- Example: The New London father arrested for leaving a baby in a hot car on July 1st and the New London man was arrested for two children were found in the hot car on July 8th. Both situations the child’s health was in grave danger when found and needed immediate medical attention.
- CT Law Definition: In summary, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant, acting alone or with one or more other persons, committed or attempted to commit <insert underlying felony>, 2) the defendant or another participant in the <insert underlying felony> caused the death of <insert name of decedent>, 3) the defendant or another participant in the <insert underlying felony> caused the death while in the course of, and in furtherance of, the commission or attempted commission of the <insert underlying felony>, or, in immediate flight from the crime, and 4) <insert name of decedent> was not a participant in the crime of <insert underlying felony>. If you unanimously find that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crime of felony murder, then you shall find the defendant guilty. On the other hand, if you unanimously find that the state has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements, you shall then find the defendant not guilty. (Link to More Information)
- In Terms of a Hot Car: Purposely locking a child in a hot car to die.
- Example: Georgia father charged with murder for the death of his son due to a hot car on June 18th. (Note: Georgia law has a different definition of murder than Connecticut)
Bottom line, children should never be left in a locked car. They should also not ever have access to unlocked, parked vehicles or trunks in this hot humid weather.
If anyone observes a child left unattended in any car, at any time, especially on a hot day, call 911.
Drivers are advised to keep their vehicles locked and never let children play in cars. It’s important to make a habit of looking in the front and back seats of the car, before locking your vehicle and walking away.