Don’t Ever Leave Any Infant Alone in the Car.
I have been a child abuse defense attorney in Maricopa County for more than twenty five years. Every fall and winter, when the temperature drops below 80 degrees, I get a fresh wave of clients who as parents, left their infants sleeping unattended in the family car while they dashed into a local business on a quick errand.
Most adults seem to understand that when the August sun is shining, the temperature inside a car can rapidly become life threatening. As a result, Arizona parents seem to be far more careful with their little ones during our blistering summers. During the winter months, however, many of my clients are often miffed that a concerned bystander actually called the police. After all, there was never any intent to harm the child. Yet, when it comes to parenting decisions, negligence alone is enough to sustain criminal charges. For example, the following are routinely prosecuted in Arizona:
- Unattended child in vehicle – My clients will swear they were only gone for two minutes. Yet, a cell phone video confirms that is was longer than ten. And while a reduced time frame may only get you a misdemeanor citation instead of a felony summons, please understand that Arizona prosecutors will actively prosecute any parent who leaves an infant alone in a car regardless of the season or the reason.
- Toddler roaming unattended through the neighborhood or apartment complex – If your child is smart enough to find his or her favorite game on an iPad, chances are that kid is smart enough to open the front door of your home. A child-proof door lock is significantly cheaper than hiring an attorney.
- Second-grader home alone after school – In today’s economy, not all parents can afford professional after-school daycare. Consequently, I am consistently asked: “At what age is it OK to let a child stay home alone?” Unfortunately, Arizona law does not declare a specific age. As a result, police officers have great discretion in dealing with these types of calls. Generally, the police will consider the following factors:
- Can the child communicate with the police?
- Can the child quickly reach a parent by phone?
- Can the child summon or run to a designated neighbor in case of an emergency?
- Is that nearby neighbor occasionally checking on the child?
In addition to facing criminal charges, the Department of Child Safety (DCS) investigates all cases of child abuse and neglect. Facing criminal charges for a parental brain cramp is bad enough; having DCS threaten to take your kids away can turn one careless decision into a bona fide nightmare.
When it comes to child abuse and neglect cases, the attorneys at Rowley Chapman & Barney have vast experience in mitigating criminal charges and fighting DCS in juvenile court. If you or a loved one needs our help, please call us today at (480) 833-2341.
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