Every year, new reports are filled with stories about parents, guardians, and other parties such as babysitters or dog walkers leaving children and pets in hot cars during the summertime.
In Virginia, leaving a child or pet in a car could result in criminal charges - especially if doing so makes the child or pet unsafe. Evidence that a parent or guardian regularly leaves their child or pet in cars unattended can also significantly influence the outcome of child custody cases.
Today, we're taking a deeper look at the consequences of leaving a child or pet in the car. To schedule a consultation with our team and obtain legal representation for your family law or criminal defense case, contact us online or via phone at (757) 517-2942.
Is It Illegal to Leave a Child or Pet in a Car During the Summer?
Many people drastically underestimate how long it takes for a parked car to reach unsafe temperatures in the summer heat.
Cars can easily reach temperatures that are unsafe for children in an hour. Infants and pets are more at risk, and could experience adverse effects from being left in a car during the summer even faster.
According to Virginia law, pet owners have a legal duty to provide companion animals with "adequate care." Owners who leave animals in cars during warm or hot weather long enough for the animal to experience adverse effects from the heat may be charged with cruelty to animals.
Unlike many states, Virginia does not have specific laws preventing parents from leaving a child unattended in a car. However, child neglect charges could apply to parents whose child experience negative effects from being left in a hot car.
Child neglect charges have broad parameters in Virginia. A parent may be charged if they leave a child "delinquent, in need of services, or in need of supervision." As a result, it's fairly easy for state prosecutors to charge parents who leave children in hot cars with child neglect.
Pet owners charged with cruelty to animals may face a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. The judge may also order the owner, if convicted, to attend a counseling or education session to prevent further occurrences of cruelty.
Parents charged with child neglect could face a Class 4 felony, punishable by 2-10 years in jail and/or a fine of up to $100,000.
Additionally, being charged with child neglect could have a significant impact on parents engaged in a child custody case (or who will be part of a custody battle in the future). A judge could award a parent with a record of child neglect with less or no custody rights, depending on the circumstances of the case.
At The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, our attorneys will work with you to ensure you receive the highest level of legal representation in your family law or criminal defense case. To schedule a consultation with our team, contact us online or via phone at (757) 517-2942.