The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Don't Leave Kids in Hot Cars: It's the Law

Leaving kids in hot cars can lead to unintended and incredibly tragic consequences.

With temperatures in California soaring into the 90s, a car's interior can heat up to 135 degrees or higher, and prove fatal to a small child .

As the temperature continues to rise, so does the risk of vehicular hyperthermia, or heat stroke -- especially for a child left inside a hot vehicle.

For that very reason, it's illegal in California to leave a child in a hot car.

Kaitlyn's Law

In California, Kaitlyn's Law makes it illegal to leave children in hot cars.

The California law was enacted following the death of 6-month-old Kaitlyn Marie Russell, who was left in a vehicle on a hot summer day, reports the San Mateo Patch.

California law prohibits anyone from leaving a child six years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle without the supervision of someone who is 12 years or older when:

  1. There are conditions that present a significant risk to the child's health or safety, and
  2. The vehicle's engine is running and/or the vehicle's key is in the ignition.

Child Endangerment

A parent or guardian who leaves a child unattended in a car, even for a short time, can face a range of charges related to child endangerment.

Jessica Palma-Gomez, a mother in Los Angeles, was arrested after allegedly leaving her 1-year-old daughter in a car with the air conditioning on while she ran into a Ralphs grocery store, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Brian Humphrey confirmed after Palma Gomez's arrest in 2012 that "[w]hether air conditioning is on or not, it is against California law to leave a child unattended in a vehicle."

A conviction can come with a range of possible penalties, depending on the child's age, the severity of a child's injuries, and other factors.

Palma-Gomez, for example, was booked on suspicion of willful harm to a child, even though her daughter appeared to be fine.

CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow agreed that even the best of parents or caregivers can overlook a sleeping baby in a vehicle, but the end result can be injury or even death, reports San Mateo Patch. The CHP encourages parents to develop a plan that becomes routine.

If you find yourself in a tragic situation resulting from leaving your child in a hot car, you will likely need legal representation. A good start is to find an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.

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