Can You Go to Jail for Leaving a Child Home Alone in Utah?
Utah courts take the welfare and well-being of all children very seriously. Utah’s stringent laws punish those who endanger the lives of their children. This is especially true if they are minors without the legal capacity to make sound, rational decisions. Many parents have to make the difficult choice of leaving their children home alone while they take care of an emergency or pressing matter. They may also fear getting in legal trouble if they do leave their kids unattended. Will you go to jail for leaving your kids home alone in Utah? Our Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney, Darwin Overson, explains.
Can I Go to Jail for Leaving My Children Home Alone in Utah?
As a parent, you would undoubtedly do your best to ensure your children’s safety and well-being. Sometimes, deciding whether to leave your child home alone can be challenging. On the one hand, you need to consider the potential legal repercussions of leaving your kid home alone, and, on the other, you need to deal with all the issues everyday life brings. Balancing your parental duties and your daily obligations can be tricky.
Many parents may ask themselves whether they will go to jail for leaving their kids home alone. The answer to this question will depend on the circumstances of your case. For instance, there are many variables to consider before deciding to leave your child home alone, such as:
Your Child’s Age
One of the most important things to consider before leaving your child home alone is their age. The law will look at your child closely and determine whether your actions were appropriate. For instance, you cannot leave a child home alone if they are seven years old or younger. You may leave your child home alone for half an hour during daylight or early evening if they are eight to ten years old. The time you can leave your children home alone increases as they get older. If you still have doubts about whether you can leave your child home alone in Utah, our Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys can help.
Your Child’s Maturity
There may be instances where the child’s age may not be the only variable to consider. For example, you may leave a minor home alone for an extended period (not indefinite) if they are mature enough to understand their situation and handle themselves while you are not around the house. For example, thirteen or fourteen-year-olds may be mature enough to be home alone while you are out at work. However, this analysis should be done on a case-by-case basis.
Whether You Left Them at a Safe Place
When you left the house – and assuming your kids are old enough to be home alone – did you leave them with enough food, water, and clothes? Is your home a safe environment where your kid can subsist independently? If the answer is yes, then you may leave your kids at home. If the answer is no, you have to find a baby sitter, the other parent, or a family member to take care of them while you are away.
How Long Will You Be Away from Home?
Another caveat to consider is how long you will be away from your home. It is essential to understand that leaving for an indefinite time can get you in trouble. If you leave a minor home alone without following established guidelines, you may be charged with child abandonment, neglect, or endangerment (depending on your circumstances). A conviction for these charges can lead to devastating, life-altering consequences.
What Are the Criminal Penalties for Leaving a Child Home Alone in Utah?
As we mentioned, leaving your child home alone for an extended period, without justification and in an environment that is not suited for minors, can lead to criminal charges. More specifically, you could be charged with abandonment and neglect. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may also face child endangerment charges.
According to Utah Code § 76-5-109, you can be charged with abandonment if you intentionally fail to provide your child with essentials such as food, shelter, and clothing for an unspecified time, permanently relinquish custody of your kids or fail to resume custody of your children.
With the above definition in mind, let’s discuss neglect. According to Utah Code § 78A-6-105, neglect is an action or omission causing the abandonment of a child, lack of proper care, and failure to provide essential care for their well-being, such as adequate shelter, food, clothing, etc. When leaving a child home alone in Utah, it is essential to understand the law and the state’s guidelines to ensure you are compliant.
If you do not meet the state’s guidelines and are charged with abandonment or neglect, you can face severe, life-altering consequences. For instance, you can be convicted of a third-degree felony, which is one of the most severe charges in the state. If convicted, you can face up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. In addition to this devastating criminal sentence, your conviction will remain on your criminal record. People convicted of abandonment or neglect also have to deal with the social stigma these offenses may carry, which can also affect your family and relationships. It is always in your best interest to get assistance from a skilled Utah criminal defense attorney.
Criminal Defense Attorney Offering Free Consultations in Utah
If you or a loved one was charged with a criminal offense for leaving their children home alone in Utah, you need to act immediately. Our Utah criminal defense lawyers from Overson Law PLLC, can help you defend your rights. Thanks to our years of experience, skill, and dedication, we have developed the skills required to provide our clients with the quality legal representation they deserve. Do not wait another minute if you were charged with a crime in Salt Lake City or anywhere else in Utah. Call our law offices today and schedule your free, confidential consultation. Our phone number is (801) 758-2287.