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Can You Really Get Arrested For Leaving Your Child Unsupervised in Your Car under C.G.S. 53-21 and 53-21a?

It’s like clockwork.  As the weather gets warmer every year, we inevitably get a call from a parent who has been arrested in Stamford, Greenwich, or elsewhere in Connecticut for leaving their child unsupervised in a car under C.G.S. 53-21a, and sometimes even under the more serious felony charge of C.G.S. 53-21 Risk of Injury to a Minor / Child Endangerment.  Most of the time the parent is innocently running into the dry cleaners, coffee shop, deli, or grocery store and was only gone for 5 minutes.  Their child or children were occupied with electronics or a movie, the door was locked, and the keys were not in the car.  Can this relatively harmless conduct of leaving your child in a car unsupervised get you arrested for a 53-21a misdemeanor or 53-21 risk of injury felony in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien or New Canaan?

The answer is YES.

Here’s why….

For every hundred times that the above uneventful scenario above takes place, there is usually one scenario that goes tragically awry.  Sometimes the parent or grandparent literally forgets that the child is in the car and they suffocate.  Sometimes the child gets nervous and runs into traffic or leaves the car.  Or the kids will start snacking on food and choke.  Or a stranger may start talking to the children with bad intentions.  Unfortunately we are no longer living in a society where you can leave your car doors unlocked, back porch screens open, or children unsupervised in the car.  And as the best Stamford criminal lawyers will tell you, Connecticut lawmakers have enacted tough legislation to make sure you learn this lesson the hard way.

C.G.S. 53-21 Felony Risk of Injury / Child Endangerment Laws For Unsupervised Children

The toughest charge that Stamford and Greenwich police can charge you with for leaving your child unsupervised in your car is Felony Risk of Injury under C.G.S. 53-21.  As top Stamford and Greenwich criminal attorneys concede, this is a very broadly and loosely enforced felony charge.  All that is required for this charge is that you have put a child under 16 in harm’s way.  This includes physical or emotional harm.  Exactly how this translates into a situation where you run into the cleaners can be unclear to even the best Connecticut criminal attorneys.  Is a child truly in harm’s way here?  Or is this really about the possibility of something bad happening?  Most top Stamford Risk of Injury lawyers would argue the latter.  However, once you are charged with this serious felony, the priority is not to argue semantics, but to get the case dismissed as quickly as possible by convincing the court and prosecutors that you are a responsible, caring parent in spite of your brief lapse in judgment.

The More Appropriate Charge for Leaving Child Unsupervised in Car: C.G.S. 53-21a

The less heavy-handed charge that truly applies here is C.G.S. 53-21a, a misdemeanor that specifically addresses this specific situation of leaving your child unsupervised in a motor vehicle.  Click here for to see the full text of this criminal statute.  Interestingly, this misdemeanor charge gets raised to a felony charge if you leave your child unsupervised in a car between 6pm and 8am.  Again, whether or not you believe your child was in actual danger is irrelevant.  And the reasons for leaving your child alone and unsupervised in the car are also irrelevant to a court.  This is not an intent crime.  It is a strict liability crime, basically meaning that there are no excuses or defenses of intent or justification.

DCF Involvement in 53-21 Risk of Injury & 53-21a Unsupervised Child Cases

As if your Connecticut criminal arrest for 53-21 Risk of Injury or 53-21a Unsupervised Child in a Motor Vehicle was not enough, the arresting officer is obligated to make a referral to DCF for an abuse or neglect investigation.  This means that in addition to your criminal case, a separate DCF investigation has been opened and you will be questioned and visited by a DCF investigator within a few days.  DCF will question you to make sure you a fit parent and that all of your children are safe at home.  If you are not represented by a top Stamford Connecticut DCF lawyer, then DCF will try to contact your children’s doctors, dentists and schools.  It is critical for you to know that you can say no to any of DCF’s questions; however, there can be consequences for refusing to cooperate with DCF so it is best for you to contact a top Greenwich or Stamford DCF lawyer to assist you with your Risk of Injury 53-21 and 53-21a Unsupervised Child in a Motor Vehicle case.

Contact a Connecticut 53-21 Risk of Injury / 53-21a Unsupervised Child in a Motor Vehicle Lawyer Today

Times have changed unfortunately.  And leaving your child unsupervised in your car—if even for just a few minutes—can quickly become a misdemeanor or felony criminal case.  The experienced Risk of Injury attorneys at Mark Sherman Law have handled these Risk of Injury 53-21 cases for over 15 years.  We are focused on one thing only: results.  So if you are charged with 53-21 Risk of Injury or 53-21a Leaving Your Child Unsupervised in a Motor Vehicle, call us now to discuss how we can help you try to get your case dismissed as quickly as possible.  Our rates are compteitive, and we are available 24/7.  Call us today at (203) 358-4700.