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Leaving a Child in a Vehicle

CNN reported on August 7, 2017, that more than 36 kids die in hot cars every year. Statistics compiled by Jan Null of the Department of Meteorology & Climate Science at San Jose State University for the website No Heat Stroke show that 737 children have died in vehicles as the result of heatstroke since 1998. More than half of those deaths were children under 2 years of age.

According to No Heat Stroke, more than half the deaths were also the result of caregivers forgetting about the children. While 28 percent of the deaths were attributed to children gaining access to unattended vehicles, 17 percent involved parents intentionally leaving the children alone in the vehicles.

Texas is one of 19 states in the nation that makes it a criminal offense to leave a child unattended in a motor vehicle. If such an act results in injuries to the child, the alleged offender can face other more serious charges.

Attorney for Leaving a Child in a Vehicle Arrests in Houston, TX

Were you arrested in southeast Texas for allegedly leaving a child unattended in an automobile? Make sure you contact Horak Law before making any kind of statement to authorities.

Houston criminal defense lawyer Matt Horak defends clients charged with violent crimes in Pasadena, The Woodlands, Conroe, Richmond-Rosenberg, Pearland, Houston, Missouri City, Spring, League City, Galveston, Sugar Land, and many other nearby areas in and around Harris County. Call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 to have our attorney review your case and help you understand all of your legal options during a free, confidential consultation.


Overview of Leaving a Child in a Vehicle in Harris County


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Leaving a Child in a Vehicle Penalties in Texas

Under Texas Penal Code § 22.10, 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; and
  • not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older.

Leaving a child in a vehicle is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. An individual may be charged with this crime even if the child is not injured and the weather is not particularly hot.


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Harris County Crimes Related to Leaving a Child in a Vehicle

When a child does suffer some kind of injury as the result of being left in a motor vehicle, the person who was responsible for the child's care may face criminal charges that are much more serious.

For example, a parent, legal guardian, or other caregiver may be accused of abandoning or endangering a child. Texas Penal Code § 22.041(a) defines "abandon" as meaning "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 and ability."

If a person, having custody, care, or control of a child younger than 15 years, intentionally abandons the child in any place under circumstances that expose the child to an unreasonable risk of harm, it is a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in state jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if the alleged offender abandoned the child with intent to return for the child. If the alleged offender abandoned the child without intent to return for the child, he or she will be charged with a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

In cases involving injuries to children, alleged offenders may be charged with injury to a child. Under Texas Penal Code § 22.04, it is a state jail felony if an alleged offender recklessly causes bodily injury to a child or causes serious bodily injury, serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury, or bodily injury as the result of criminal negligence.

If an alleged offender intentionally or knowingly causes bodily injury to a child, it is a third-degree felony. It is also a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 if an individual recklessly causes serious bodily injury or serious mental deficiency, impairment, or injury to a child. If a person 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 and/or a fine of up to $10,000.


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Texas Leaving a Child in a Vehicle Resources

Child Supervision | Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) — Find some answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about child supervision on this section of the DFPS website. In addition to leaving a child alone in a vehicle, other topics addressed include neglectful supervision and how old children need to be stay home alone. You can also find information about investigations, children and family services, and youth and young adult services.

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS): Leaving Children in Vehicles Can Be Deadly — View a June 28, 2017 press release from DPS about summer temperatures increasing the risk of vehicular heatstroke. According to the release, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said temperatures inside a car can rise more than 20 degrees in only 10 minutes. The press release contains links to information about preventing child heatstroke in cars and pet safety.


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Horak Law | Houston Leaving a Child in a Vehicle Defense Lawyer

If you were arrested for allegedly leaving a child in a motor vehicle anywhere in southeast Texas, it will be in your best interest to retain legal counsel. Horak Law represents parents, legal guardians, and other individuals in communities throughout Galveston County, Montgomery County, Waller County, Fort Bend County, Harris County, Liberty County, and Brazoria County.

Matt Horak is a skilled criminal defense attorney in Houston who understands that many people accused of this crime had absolutely no criminal intent and he will fight for a case resolution that carries the fewest penalties. You can have our lawyer provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call our firm at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009 or submit an online contact form to set up a free initial consultation.


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Our Office in The Woodlands
1790 Hughes Landing Blvd #400 The Woodlands, TX 77380 (281) 907-4990
Our Office in Houston
5300 Memorial Dr #750 A Houston, TX 77007 (713) 225-8000
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Matt Horak Matt Horak is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2014