Parents Who Leave Children Unattended Could Face Punishment

(KCPW News) It would be a crime to leave a child under nine years old unattended in a hot car, under a bill that cleared a Utah Senate committee yesterday. Democratic Senator Ben McAdams drafted the bill to strengthen existing laws, which currently only allow police officers to cite a person whose child has already been harmed after being left in a vehicle.

“While the child may be at risk, the child may not be harmed being left alone in a car on a warm day,” said Senator McAdams. “So what this allows is a police officer to intervene when it is clear that a child’s health and safety may be at risk.”

The parent could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor if  “the conditions present a risk to the child’s health or safety,” unless the child is accompanied by someone at least twelve years old.

Originally, Senate Bill 124 also would have allowed someone to be charged for leaving the engine running or leaving the keys in the car with a child, but that was taken out by the committee.

“The committee removed that language to say you could have a child in a car and it’s a 3 year old, the child doesn’t know how to unbuckle the car seat, the air conditioning is running, you could argue that doesn’t present a risk to the child’s safety,” said Senator McAdams.

The bill passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and will now be heard on the Senate floor.