LEAVING A CHILD UNSUPERVISED IN A MOTOR VEHICLE OR PUBLIC PLACE UNDER CONNECTICUT LAW
I have specific memories as a child of my parents leaving my sister and me in a locked car on Long Island, eating Burger King, while my parents food shopped and did other errands for an hour or so. I would guess that I was about 10 and my sister 6. For today’s parents this is very risky and possibly criminal behavior.
What are the Connecticut laws that address leaving children unattended in a motor vehicle or public place?
Under Connecticut Gen. Stat. §53‐21a, Leaving Child Unsupervised in Place of Public Accommodation or Motor Vehicle, a person can be criminally convicted if (1) the child is under the age of 12, (2) the child is knowingly left unsupervised in a motor vehicle or public place and (3) the situation presents a substantial risk to the child’s health and safety. The criminal penalties for conviction are more severe if the “public place” sells alcohol or the child is left at night.
What are the criminal penalties for violating §53-21a?
- Class A misdemeanor: up to 1 year in jail and fine up to $2,000
- Class D felony (child left in a public place that serves alcohol): prison 1 – 5 years and fine up to $5,000
- Class C felony (child left at night): prison 1- 10 years and fine up to $10,000
What Factors May Impact Being Held Criminally Liable Under §53-21a?
- How old was the child?
- Were the keys left in the ignition of the motor vehicle?
- Was the weather severe, either very cold or very hot while the child was left in the motor vehicle?
- For how long was the child left unsupervised?
- Did the situation present an obvious danger to the child?
Don’t Put Your Child at Risk! It’s not safe to leave young children unattended in a car or public place unsupervised. While in the midst of a divorce or custody proceeding, when your actions are necessarily under scrutiny, it’s that much more important to make good choices that won’t ever negatively impact your case.