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Texas Crime: Leaving a Child Alone in a Vehicle

When you were a child, your parents probably left you alone in a vehicle on more than one occasion. Perhaps it’s something they even did regularly, and you probably never thought twice about it.

If you’re a parent now, it’s important for you to know that while leaving a child alone in a vehicle was socially acceptable in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, it is illegal in Texas today.

Today’s parents are busier than ever. It can be difficult to juggle taking your children to and from school, doing homework nightly, and ensuring you’re children get adequate rest. If your infant or toddler falls asleep in the backseat, it can be VERY tempting to leave them in the car while they finish their nap.

While it’s convenient to leave your children in the car, it’s not a safe practice. According to Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, nearly 40 children in the United States die from heat stroke annually after being trapped inside a hot vehicle. Can you image if that happened to your child?

Some of these children were playing in the car, some of the parents left them there by mistake, and some of the parents left the children in the vehicles intentionally.

Why Leaving a Child Alone in a Car is Dangerous

The biggest danger is heat stroke, which can lead to organ and brain damage, and even death. Children’s bodies heat up much faster than adult bodies; a child’s body temperature can heat up to deadly levels very fast because:

  • The temperature inside a vehicle can increase by 20 degrees within 10 minutes and by 40 degrees after an hour.
  • Children’s bodies heat up three to five times faster than adult bodies.
  • Unlike adults, children’s bodies have not developed the ability to cool themselves down well.

While most children who have died in a car because of heat stroke were 3 and under, children as old as 14 have died from heat stroke after being left alone in a car.

In addition to heat stroke, there are other reasons why it’s unsafe to leave a child in the car alone: 1) children can get trapped in the trunk, 2) children can be kidnapped, and 3) children can put the car in motion and hurt themselves or someone else.

Leaving a Child in a Vehicle is a Crime in Texas

In Texas, it’s a crime to leave a child alone in a vehicle for longer than five minutes. Under Sec. 22.10 of the Texas Penal Code, if a person intentionally and knowingly leaves a child under the age of seven in a motor vehicle for more than five minutes, they are guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $500.

Are you facing criminal charges for leaving a child alone in a vehicle? If so, contact our office to meet with a Plano criminal defense attorney who can fight your charges!