We are only 3 days into summer and reportedly nearly 3 times as many children have died after being left in a hot car throughout the United States. According to a report by the National Safety Council nearly 45 percent of children left in hot vehicles between 1998-2015 were forgotten by a caregiver, primarily parents.
Children Left in Hot Cars in Pennsylvania
While most of the 2016 hot car child deaths have occurred in the Southern region of the United States, where temperatures have reached the high 90s throughout the spring, these unfortunate events have occurred in Pennsylvania as well.
In 2015 there were several instances where parents left children unattended in motor vehicles. For instance, in Breingsville, approximately 50 miles north of West Chester, a father was under criminal investigation after leaving two children, ages 4 and 6, in a vehicle when the outside temperature was approximately 92 degrees.
Also, Philadelphia police rescued two small children from a hot car after their mother accidentally locked her keys inside and the eldest child was unable to unlock the door. The Philadelphia police officer commented that he began sweating within seconds of entering the vehicle. He is unsure how the children survived 20 minutes in the locked vehicle.
Criminal charges were not filed in the aforementioned Pennsylvania cases; however, a thorough investigation was conducted by the appropriate law enforcement agencies to determine how long the children were left in the vehicle, the overall circumstances causing the child to be left in the vehicle, and several other factors.
If you have been accused of leaving a child in a hot vehicle or any other act constituting child endangerment anywhere in Pennsylvania, including West Chester, Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Lancaster, Kennett Square, Radnor, Plymouth Square, Malvern, and surrounding areas, it is important to consult an experienced attorney immediately, even if no criminal charges have been filed yet.
Chester County Child Endangerment Charges and Children Left in Hot Cars
While many parents and caregivers will assert leaving the child in the vehicle was an accident, he or she may still face child endangerment charges.
Under 18 PA.C.S. § 4304 a parent, guardian or other person supervising the welfare of a child under 18 years of age, or a person that employs or supervises such a person, commits the offense of child endangerment if he knowingly endangers the welfare of the child by violating a duty of care, protection or support.
The criminal penalties related to a child endangerment conviction varies depending on several factors, however, a first-offense child endangerment charge is generally a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Tips to Prevent Leaving Children in Hot Vehicles in West Chester
Child endangerment charges spurring from leaving a child in a hot vehicle are totally preventable. Below, are tips to avoid leaving a minor child in a vehicle.
- Always Check the Backseat: Often, children will fall asleep during car rides. Always check the backseat before locking and leaving the vehicle. Temperatures inside the vehicle can quickly rise 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature leading to severe injury or death of a child within a short amount of time.
- Contact the Childcare Giver: If the childcare provider transports your child in the mornings, contact the childcare provider around the time he or she is scheduled to arrive at the designated location. Call to confirm your child is in the facility and has not been left on the bus or van.
- Put the Keys Away: Sometimes the child is not left in a hot vehicle; rather the child retrieves the keys from inside the home and gets into the vehicle by him or herself. This is especially dangerous because the parent or caregiver is completely unaware the child is in the vehicle and may take longer time to locate the child.
- Look before You Lock: It is easy to lock the vehicle as soon as you close the driver’s side door; however, it is important to make sure all children and keys are out of the vehicle before locking the doors.
- Count the Children: Although it may sound simple, count and be sure all of the children are out of the vehicle before locking the door and going inside. This is especially helpful for parents and caregivers looking after multiple children.
It is important to consult an experienced child endangerment defense attorney immediately following an allegation of child abuse or child endangerment, even if no criminal charges have been filed. Understandably, matters involving children are handled especially seriously by law enforcement and prosecutors. It is imperative to have sound legal counsel by your side.
The team of attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices strongly defend individuals facing criminal charges, including child abuse, child endangerment, domestic assault, and violation of a protection order. Contact Ciccarelli Law Offices today at (610) 719- 3200 or submit an online form to schedule a confidential consultation.
With offices in West Chester, Philadelphia, King of Prussia, Lancaster, Kennett Square, Radnor, Plymouth Square, and Malvern, the attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices are always conveniently located and available to aggressively handle all your legal needs.