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8/1/03 - Dangers Of Leaving Children Unattended In Cars



George W. Kennedy, District Attorney

Dan Nishigaya, Deputy District Attorney
Physical Abuse of Children & Elderly Unit (PACE)
(408) 792-2543

Jaime V. Stringfield, Deputy District Attorney
Domestic Violence Unit
(408) 792-2977

For Release on August 1, 2003


The District Attorney’s Office reminds the community of the extreme danger of leaving children unattended in cars.  Any child left unattended in a car faces multiple hazards including emotional distress, kidnapping, abuse by a stranger, and accidental injury.  In hot weather, however, a child is also exposed to elevated temperatures, which may cause severe injury, permanent disability or death.

Caregivers who leave children unattended in cars face a variety of legal consequences.  It is an infraction, punishable by a fine and participation in a community education program, to leave a child six years or younger unsupervised in a car when there is a significant risk to the child’s health and safety or when the engine is left running or the keys are left in the ignition.  A caregiver may also be charged with misdemeanor child endangerment, punishable by up to a year in county jail, for placing a child in a situation where the child’s person or health may be endangered.  If the circumstances are likely to result in great bodily harm or death, the crime may be elevated to a felony punishable by up to six years in state prison.  If a child dies as a result of being left unattended in a car, the caregiver may be prosecuted for involuntary manslaughter and face up to four years in prison.

Child endangerment is criminal. Never leave a child unattended in a car.