‘As the temperatures heat up, take care of your little ones’: Criminal charges possible for leaving unattended child, animal in car

TYLER, Texas (KETK) — This week is predicted to be the hottest in East Texas so far this year. According to the National Safety Council, on average 38 children die from hot cars every year in the United States.

Since 1998, the council shows that Texas has had more deaths than any other state.

Texas law, along with 20 other states, says it is illegal to leave a child unattended in a car.

Tyler Police Department said they don’t see this offense often, but it happens more in the summer months.

No matter the circumstance, leaving a child in a car who is under the age of seven alone for more than five minutes is a class C misdemeanor.

“That’s basically saying you cannot leave any kid in a car that’s under 7-years-old without somebody there,” said Andy Erbaugh, Tyler Police Department Public Information Officer.

A person can be charged with a felony if they leave a child younger than 15 in a potentially dangerous situation.

“In a car where they are at risk for imminent, serious bodily injury, death or mental impairment can be anything up to a felony,” said Erbaugh.

If you leave any animal without food or water in the car, charges also apply if any animal is left in a life-threatening condition.

“Where you don’t provide the necessary cooling or food, water, anything like that you can be charged with cruelty to animals,” said Erbaugh.

Jail time is also possible if the child dies.

“You can be charged from criminally negligent homicide to manslaughter if the child dies,” said Erbaugh.

A car can heat up 20 more degrees in just ten minutes.

“If it’s 90 to 100 degrees outside, it’s even hotter in a car and it does not take long for a child to be mentally impaired or suffer bodily injury in the heat like that,” said Erbaugh.

Erbaugh suggests that a bystander doesn’t take matters into their own hands by breaking a window.

Insurance companies can sue you for damaging someone’s property.

He added that the best thing to do is to call 911 immediately and stay on the line.

Police urge people to remember even accidents have consequences.

“If you accidentally do it, you can still be charged, so hopefully this is a reminder as the temperatures heat up, take care of your little ones, children and animals because they cannot take care of themselves,” said Erbaugh.