Most agree that the weather in Las Vegas is ideal except the 2-3 months of intense heat the summers provide. Infamous for climbing into 3-digit temperatures, leaving children in a vehicle without any running air conditioning has proven fatal over and over again. Because of the scorching heat, Nevada Legislature passed the 2005 law that if you intentionally leave a child unattended in a vehicle under unsafe conditions, it is a criminal offense. We at Kajioka and Associates, Attorneys at Law, would like to take the opportunity to discuss the legalities of living children in a hot automobile.
What is the Mandate for Leaving a Child Unattended in a Car in Las Vegas, Nevada?
Leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle in Las Vegas, Nevada mandates that:
“a parent, legal guardian or other person responsible for a child who is 7 years of age or younger shall not knowingly and intentionally leave that child in a motor vehicle if:
(a) The conditions present a significant risk to the health and safety of the child, or
(b) The engine of the motor vehicle is running or the keys to the vehicle are in the ignition, unless the child is being supervised by and within the sight of a person who is at least 12 years of age.”
What this mandate is declaring is that leaving a child under 8 years old in a vehicle, even if the keys are in the ignition or the conditions are potentially hazardous is a crime, however, if someone age 12 or older is actively supervising the child it is not.
** Please note that police have authority to break into automobiles in an effort to rescue unattended children without incurring liability for the damage they do to the vehicle. Additionally, this law applies only to motor vehicles, not to planes, boats, or trains.
Criminal Defense Strategies, Techniques & Tactics
Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is extremely specific and outlaws a very narrow range of actions. This allows you and your attorney to argue that your case falls outside the prohibited behavior. Below are three common defense strategies:
1) There were safe conditions. As long as the keys are not in the ignition and the conditions in the vehicle don’t present a significant health or safety risk, leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is legal. If this applies to you, your case should be dismissed if your attorney can show that your child was in no substantial dangers while in the vehicle.
2) There was no intentional act. Defendants who knowingly and intentionally left their children unattended are enforced with NRS 202.575. You’re not liable under this law if you honestly forgot that you left the child in the automobile.
3) Evidence is insufficient. A defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before he/she can be convicted, and it’s the state’s burden to prove guilt. If the state’s evidence is unreliable and inadequate, then the charge should be dropped if your attorney can show lack thereof.
Penalties if Found Guilty of Leaving Child Unattended in Vehicle
A first offense of violating NRS 202.575 are usually dismissed as long as the defendant successfully completes an educational program concerning the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a vehicle. Otherwise the judge may impose a Nevada misdemeanor sentence that can include any of the following:
– Up to 6 months in jail
– Up to $1,000 in fines
– A combination of both
The prosecutors will instead bring felony charges for the Nevada crime of child endangerment if the child suffered injuries from being left in the vehicle. The defendant may face charges under Las Vegas homicide law if the child should die. The punishment for either scenario carries lengthy prison terms and high fines.