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Help! I’ve Been Accused of Child Endangerment for Running Errands With My Child in the Car

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Will County Criminal Defense AttorneyAs any parent of a young child knows, sometimes running errands while constantly buckling a tantruming or sleeping child in and out of a car seat is simply too much to ask. Frustrated and exhausted, parents will often lock a child in a car and quickly run into the grocery store or post office, complete their business, and hurry back out to find all is well. 

Unfortunately, even if the parent feels the child is safe, this may result in criminal charges. Under certain circumstances, Illinois law prohibits leaving young children unattended in a vehicle because doing so can place a child at significant risk. If you have been charged with child endangerment for leaving your child in a car, read on. 

Is Leaving a Child in a Car Really Child Endangerment? 

Many parents, especially those living in rural areas who grew up with plenty of independence, have a hard time understanding how a cautious parent who leaves a sleeping child in a car could be guilty of child endangerment. Yet a child left alone in a car is subject to many hazards, including: 

  • Accidentally shifting the car out of park and into drive or reverse
  • Kidnapping
  • Inadvertently being kidnapped during a car theft 
  • Heatstroke, frostbite, suffocation, or other extreme weather-related injuries 
  • Getting out of the car and being struck by another vehicle in a parking lot

While no parent ever thinks these things will happen to them, such stories appear in the news frequently. Vehicles, especially in humid and sunny environments, can quickly become fatally hot and children can suffer from major organ failure when their bodies cannot cool them down. To prevent these tragedies, and to hold irresponsible parents or caregivers accountable, Illinois law allows harsh punishments for child endangerment. 

Leaving a child under age 6 alone in a car when a caregiver cannot see the child for more than 10 minutes is child endangerment, which is a Class A misdemeanor. Punishments may include up to a year in jail and as much as $2,500 in fines. A child under age six in a car must be accompanied by someone at least 14 years or older. 

While parents who are found guilty of child endangerment often only receive probation, subsequent convictions for child endangerment can be charged as Class 3 felonies. If a child dies after being left alone in a car, the parent can be imprisoned for up to 10 years and hit with $25,000 in fines. 

Speak with a Will County, IL Criminal Defense Lawyer

Most parents are rightfully horrified at the idea that they may have willfully placed their child in harm’s way by leaving them in the car while running errands. Even if you disagree with the charges, it is important to take them seriously. You could face serious consequences for a conviction of child endangerment that could impact your personal and professional life, as well as your family’s well-being. To get help from a skilled Will County criminal defense attorney, contact McNamara Phelan McSteen, LLC today to schedule a free case review. We will fight passionately for your constitutional rights and work hard to help you avoid conviction. Call us today at 815-727-0100

 

Sources: 

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2002-01-04-0201040364-story.html 

https://www2.illinois.gov/dcfs/safekids/safety/Documents/Never_leave_your_child_in_car.pdf

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