Texas is one of nineteen states that makes it a criminal offense to leave a child unattended in a vehicle. The alleged offender can face serious charges if such act results in injuries to the child.
In Texas, leaving a child in a vehicle is a Class C Misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine of up to $500. Even if the weather is not hot and the child does not suffer any injuries, an individual may still be charged.
Texas Penal Code §22.10 states that a person commits the criminal offense of leaving a child in a vehicle if he or she intentionally or knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the child is:
- Younger than seven years of age
- Not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is fourteen years of age or older
When a child does suffer injuries from being left inside of an unattended vehicle, the responsible individual for the child’s care may face criminal charges more serious than a Class C Misdemeanor and $500 fine. For example, parents, legal guardians, or other caregivers may be held responsible for abandoning or endangering the safety of a child.
Texas Penal Code §22.014(a) defines the term ‘abandon’ to mean to leave a child in any place without providing reasonable and necessary care for the child, under circumstances under which no reasonable, similarly situated adult would leave a child of that age nd ability.
Texas Penal Code §22.04 states that if an alleged offender recklessly causes injury to a child or causes serious bodily injury, serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury, it is punishable as a state jail felony. Intentionally or knowingly causing bodily injury to a child is a third-degree felony. If an individual recklessly causes serious bodily injury or serious or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a child is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine. Lastly, intentionally or knowingly causes serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a child, injury to a child is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison.
The wellbeing of children will always be considered an important issue. As many Texans know, our other seasons can be just a brutal as summer, with summers reaching record highs in the 100s. With this in mind it is important for all parents, legal guardians, and caregivers to be attentive to ensure children are not being left unattended in vehicles.