Leaving a Child in a Vehicle

Your baby is in the backseat, asleep in his car seat. You need to stop by the corner store for a quick errand, but you don’t want to take your kid out and risk ruining the peace and quiet you’re both enjoying. So you leave him sleeping in parking lot while you run inside. What’s the harm?

Under Texas law, leaving a child in a vehicle is a criminal offense. If a cop pulls in beside you and observes your kid sleeping unattended in the vehicle, you could face a criminal charge. If you’ve been charged with leaving a child in a vehicle, it’s in your best interest to contact an attorney for advice on how to proceed.

Defense Attorney for Leaving a Child in a Vehicle in Dallas

The attorneys at Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy understand that mistakes happen. That doesn’t make you a bad parent. We are dedicated to defending our clients and providing the best possible outcomes. It may be possible to dismiss your charge. Contact us for a free consultation to get started.

Call (972) 233-5700 or complete our online form. A skilled lawyer from our team will speak with you about your charges, the potential consequences, and any defense options you may have available. Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy represents DFW clients in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, and other surrounding counties.


Overview of Leaving a Child in a Vehicle in Dallas


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What Are the Elements of Leaving a Child in a Vehicle in Texas?

The crime of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is defined by Texas Penal Code Section 22.10. According to this law, the following elements must be proven to find someone guilty of this crime:

  • A person leaves a child in a motor vehicle for more than five minutes;
  • The person does so intentionally and knowingly;
  • The person knows that the child is younger than seven years of age; and
  • The person knows that the child is not under the supervision of another person in the vehicle who is at least 14 years old.

Leaving a child in a hot car can expose you to additional charges of child endangerment or worse. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the internal temperature of a car can reach 110 degrees even when the surrounding temperature is in the mid-60s. Conditions inside the car can become fatal quickly.


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Penalties for Leaving a Child in a Vehicle in Dallas County

Leaving a child in a vehicle is a class C misdemeanor. If found guilty of this charge, you could be fined up to $500. Class C misdemeanors do not include the possibility of imprisonment as a penalty.

Parents who leave a child in a vehicle long enough for the child to suffer injury or death face much more severe charges.

If a child is left in a car for a prolonged period of time, you could be charged under Texas Penal Code Section 22.041, “Abandoning or endangering child.” If the child dies while left alone in the vehicle, you could be charged with criminally negligent homicide as defined by Texas Penal Code Section 19.05.

Both of these crimes are state jail felonies. A state jail carries a term of incarceration between 180 days and two years. You could also be fined up to $10,000.


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Defenses for Leaving a Child in a Vehicle in DFW

One possible defense against the charge of leaving your child in a car is forgetfulness. Intent must be proven in order to convict. Parents who leave their children in their vehicles often do so because the flow of their normal routine has somehow been interrupted. Leaving your kid unattended in the car because you were preoccupied and forgot to take them out could get you off the hook.

Another defense is the age of the child and whether they were attended by another child of an appropriate age. If the child was above the age of seven, you can’t be charged with leaving a child in a vehicle. And if the younger child was accompanied by a child at least 14 years old, you were not in violation of this law.


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Additional Resources

Heatstroke | Kids and Cars – Kids and Cars is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the danger of leaving children unattended in hot cars. According to this page, around 40 kids die every year when they are left unattended in vehicles in the heat of summer.

Leaving a child in a vehicle | Texas Penal Code Section 22.10 – The State of Texas hosts a copy of the Texas Penal Code on its official government website. Visit this link to read the full text of the statute that defines the crime of leaving a child in a vehicle.

Child Safety: Heatstroke | NHTSA – The National Highway Traffic Safety Association publishes a website providing parents with vehicle safety facts and advice. Visit this website to view information about why it is dangerous and illegal to leave children alone in a vehicle for an extended period of time.


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Defense Lawyer for Leaving a Child in a Vehicle in Dallas

Leaving a child in a vehicle is usually the result of a mistake or a lapse in judgment. dMost parents are embarrassed or ashamed when they realize they left their child in the vehicle alone. Criminal charges just add unnecessary insult to injury. The attorneys at Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy will fight to help you explain yourself and avoid a conviction.

Call (972) 233-5700 or fill out our online form to schedule a free initial consultation. Every case presents a unique set of facts. One of our experienced lawyers will offer you a personalized review of your case. We represent clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, including Ellis, Tarrant. Collin, and Wise County.


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