Can You Go to Jail for Leaving a Child in the Car in Utah?

Every year, many children are exposed to intense heat inside vehicles. Unfortunately, some of these minors die due to heatstroke or suffer debilitating conditions caused by dehydration and overexposure to heat. The law is very strict with parents who leave their child inside a car, even for a moment, and expose them to heat. Many of these parents may ask themselves whether leaving their children inside a vehicle can lead to jail and other penalties. Our Salt Lake City criminal defense attorneys from Overson & Bugden, invite you to keep reading as we discuss whether you will go to jail for leaving your child inside a car in Utah.

Is it legal to Leave Your Child Alone in the Car in Utah?

Unfortunately, there have been many cases where parents inadvertently – or sometimes intentionally – have left their kids inside a parked car. Moreover, there have been numerous instances where kids have been left by their parents under the hot sun, without air conditioning, for an extended period. Like all other states in the country, Utah takes the best interests of minors very seriously and will always strive to protect their well-being.

Leaving a child in a hot car or locked in a car for a period of time, all alone, is not something the court will look kindly at. On average, almost 40 children die from heat strokes every year in the U.S. Needless to say, parents who have left their kids alone inside a hot vehicle can face severe consequences. In short, leaving a child or a minor locked in a car is not legal. If you are found guilty for putting your child’s life at risk by leaving them inside a hot car, you can face severe penalties.

The “free-range” parenting rules present in Utah are not to be confused with leaving a kid inside a car. It is important to make this distinction, as this new law protects parents from neglect charges for letting their children roam unattended or supervised in an open area such as a park. If you have been charged with a crime for leaving your kid inside a hot car in Utah, you need to contact a skilled Utah criminal defense attorney as soon as you can.

What Are the Penalties for Leaving a Child in the Car in Utah?

What happens if you leave your child inside a hot car? Will you be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony? Can you be accused of abandonment, neglect, or abuse? These are questions that have been in discussion over the years. For some people, leaving a kid unattended in a car under the hot sun is enough to warrant abuse or neglect charges. Such actions can be deemed human error or acts that don’t necessarily amount to abuse for other people.

There is a statute that directly addresses these questions and that is essential to understand. According to Utah Code § 76-10-2202, a person can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor for leaving a child alone in a motor vehicle, regardless of the space and whether they left a window, hatch, or door open. Furthermore, you can be charged with this offense if you leave the minor in a vehicle on private property, the child is not supervised by a child of at least nine years of age, and the conditions can lead to hyperthermia, hypothermia, or dehydration.

According to Utah’s sentencing guidelines, Class C misdemeanors can lead to up to three months in jail and $750 in criminal fines. In addition to these devastating consequences, you can also face the social stigma and the potential harm exposing your kid to heat can cause. Moreover, a criminal conviction in your record can bring additional challenges, even years after serving time. For example, if you are convicted of leaving a child inside a vehicle, it would be almost impossible to rent a home, apply for a new job, or get qualified for a loan. It is essential to retain the services of skilled, experienced and dedicated Tooele criminal defense attorneys for assistance.

How Can a Criminal Defense Attorney Help with Charges for Leaving a Child in a Car in Utah?

In every criminal case, all defendants are innocent until proven otherwise. This means that the prosecution – or the state – has the burden of showing beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the crime with which you were charged. In a case related to Utah Code § 76-10-2202 – leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle – the prosecutor must prove all the elements described in the statute. In other words, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally, recklessly, knowingly, or with criminal negligence, left the child inside the motor vehicle.

Additionally, they have to prove that the motor vehicle was on public property, private property open to the public, and that the child was not supervised by a person at least nine years of age. Furthermore, the state has to prove that the car’s conditions posed a risk of hyperthermia, hypothermia, or dehydration.

If the prosecutor cannot prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you should not be convicted for this offense. However, it is necessary to retain the services of an experienced West Valley City criminal defense attorney who understands how the criminal process works. Our Utah criminal defense attorneys can help you with these legal matters.

Utah Attorneys Handling Cases for Leaving a Child in the Car

Being charged with leaving a child inside a car in Utah is a serious crime. While these charges are not as severe as a felony, they can still pose severe, life-altering consequences. Our Ogden criminal defense attorneys from Overson & Bugden understand how challenging these charges can be. For this reason, our criminal defense lawyers will put all of their efforts and resources to fighting aggressively and defending your rights as a defendant. To learn more about our services in a free, confidential consultation, call our law offices today at (801) 758-2287.