The good ol’ days of leaving your child in the car while you run a quick errand are long gone. Too many tragic cases of baby hot car deaths and heat suffocation deaths have caused law enforcement to enforce a zero tolerance policy.
But what about when it’s not hot? Or when you just want to run into a store or your friend’s house for just a minute while your toddler is sleeping and the air conditioning is keeping your children cool and safe?
It’s still illegal—here’s why…
How Old Can a Child Be Legally Left Alone in a Car Unsupervised in Connecticut?
It depends. A year or two ago, I wrote a blog about my concerns with Connecticut criminal laws that have been enforced by police in the wake of a then-highly publicized hot car child death.
Connecticut police routinely charge parents and nannies with one of two charges for leaving an unsupervised child in a car: the misdemeanor charge under CGS 53-21a (which prohibits leaving a child under 12 unsupervised); or alternatively (and unfairly), a felony Risk of Injury / Child Endangerment charge under CGS 53-21 (prohibiting placing a child under 16 in any kind of risk of physical harm).
Why these Unsupervised Child in Car Laws Are Confusing
Ask any of the best Stamford, Greenwich or Westport Connecticut criminal lawyers: more than half the time in unsupervised car cases, police choose to charge parents with the felony under-16 years old Risk of Injury crime (CGS 53-21) for leaving a child unsupervised in a car. Critics are not sure whether this is because police are simply not aware of the existence of the CGS 53-21a misdemeanor subsection, or whether they truly believe kids under 16 can also be at risk or injury when left unsupervised in a car, especially on very hot days or when the car is running, keys are in the car and a 15 year old is fooling around in the driver’s seat.
Parents need to understand that Connecticut police frequently charge one of these crimes in unsupervised child in car cases—the under-12 misdemeanor and the under-16 felony Risk of Injury CGS 53-21. Follow this link to learn more about defense strategies for fighting either of these types of Connecticut unsupervised child in car cases.
Is Leaving Your Child Unsupervised in a Car in Connecticut a Misdemeanor or Felony?
It can be either. If you are arrested for CGS 53-21a Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a Car, then that’s a Class A misdemeanor (punishably by up to 1 year in jail), unless you’re accused of leaving the child unsupervised between 8pm and 6am, and then it’s a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in jail. (Parents should realize that first time offenders typically do not face any jail time for these offenses unless there’s serious injury or repeat offender issues).
When Connecticut police charge CGS 53-21 Risk of Injury to a Minor under CGS 53-21 (which they often charge in unsupervised-child-in-car cases), then that’s a Class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail.
Another Headache: Connecticut DCF Investigations Always Follow Unsupervised Child in Car Arrests
As is the case with any Stamford or Norwalk domestic violence arrest, Greenwich or Westport Connecticut Police Officers must contact DCF when they arrest people for Child Endangerment or Risk of Injury to a Child under C.G.S. § 53-21 or for Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a Car under C.G.S. § 53-21a. Because this crime involves child neglect accusations, DCF will be forced to launch an automatic and mandatory investigation into you and your family. They will want to contact your children’s health care providers, schools and even neighbors, in some cases.
Get a DCF investigation lawyer to assist you. The goal of any top Greenwich or Westport Connecticut DCF law firm will be to get your DCF investigation closed as efficiently as possible, without negatively impacting your accompanying criminal case. For more on Connecticut DCF Investigations following Unsupervised Child in a Car or Risk of Injury to a Minor arrests, click here.
Contact a Connecticut Unsupervised Child in Car Criminal Lawyer Today
So if you’re facing Unsupervised Child in Car / Risk of Injury in the Stamford, Norwalk or Danbury Connecticut criminal courts, then contact any of the criminal lawyers at the Mark Sherman Law Firm. Our former clients have been posting genuine, certified reviews about their success and experience with our law firm for years on the Avvo.com lawyers review website. Check them out and give us a call today to discuss how we can assist you with your Connecticut Unsupervised Child in Car arrest and parallel Connecticut DCF neglect investigation. We can be reached at (203) 358-4700.