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Is It Illegal to Leave a Child in a Car in NJ?


New Jersey Unattended Child Law

Parents have a lot on their plates. Besides working and maintaining their homes, they must tend to their children day-in and day-out. Although rewarding, the life of a parent can be overwhelming and exhausting. As such, it is easy for parents to forget the basics sometimes. Their daily routines may get disrupted, causing parents to forget even the most obvious things sometimes.

You’ve likely heard a bunch of stories on the news about parents leaving their children in vehicles unattended by accident. In most cases, it’s an accident. In a handful of other cases, however, it’s intentional - often as a punishment or “time out.”

With summertime in full swing, we believe it’s important for parents to be mindful of their children’s whereabouts. Leaving a child unattended can happen to the best of us, but in certain circumstances, it can result in harsh legal consequences. This is particularly the case when children are left in HOT vehicles, even for a short time, as they are vulnerable to heatstroke and other serious threats in these conditions, such as:

  • Abduction
  • Injury
  • Dehydration
  • Death

Even if you leave the windows cracked and turn on the air conditioning, children are susceptible to a range of threats beyond health issues. You could be held liable for their abduction or worse, their death if circumstances call for it.

New Jersey’s unattended child law states that a parent, legal guardian, or another person responsible for a child younger than 14 years old who leaves the child unattended and unsupervised in a motor vehicle will be considered a petty disorderly person and subject to a fine of not less than $500. So, leaving a child under 14 unattended in a vehicle is a disorderly persons offense.

However, if the child gets injured as a result of being left unattended and unsupervised, the person responsible for their care will be guilty of a third-degree crime punishable by 3 to 5 years in prison and/or up to a maximum $15,000 fine. If a child suffers serious injuries, on the other hand, the caretaker will face second-degree criminal charges punishable by 5 to 10 years in prison and/or $150,000 fines.

As you can see, the state of New Jersey does not mess around when it comes to leaving children unattended in vehicles. The personal and criminal consequences of doing so can be life-altering.

Heatstroke Dangers: Key Facts to Know

Since summer is here, we find it critical to inform parents of the true dangers of heatstroke. Many parents who leave their children unattended in vehicles argue that their kids will be fine because the windows are cracked and the AC is on. Other times, these parents argue that they’re only running a “quick” errand, so their child won’t be in danger. These safety measures are not as safe as one may think.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), heatstroke is one of the leading causes of non-crash-related fatalities in children. Children’s body temperature can rise in a quick and deadly manner, as heatstroke begins when the body’s core temperature reaches about 104 degrees. When it reaches about 107 degrees, however, a child may die. The bottom line is children are more vulnerable to heatstroke than adults. For these reasons, the NHTSA provides key information below for parents, guardians, and caretakers to know:

  • It is never okay to leave a child alone in or around a car for any reason.
  • Even in cooler temperatures, your vehicle can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. An outside temperature in the mid-60s can cause a vehicle’s inside temperature to rise above 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The inside temperature of your car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit within the first 10 minutes.
  • Heatstroke does not only occur during the summertime or in the Sun Belt States. This deadly issue can occur at any time of year, in any weather condition, in any community—for any parent.

Summertime should be a fun and relaxing break for kids and their families, not a living nightmare. We want you to enjoy summer but safely, which is why we strongly urge you to read the tips below to learn how to keep your children safe in and around cars:

  • Never leave a child unattended in a car. Not even for a minute.
  • Look before you lock.
  • Keep your vehicle locked and keep your keys out of reach; nearly 3 in 10 heatstroke deaths happen when an unattended child gains access to a vehicle.
  • Take action if you notice a child alone in a car.
  • Warn your children about playing in and around cars.
  • Install a trunk release mechanism so that kids can’t get trapped inside the trunk.
  • Get your kids out of the car first, and then worry about unloading groceries and items out of the car.

Everyone makes mistakes (yes, even you), which is what we’re here for. If you got in terrible with the law for leaving a child unattended in a car, let us know so we can help. No one should suffer harsh punishments for making a mistake. We can fight to give you a second chance.

Contact us online or at (201) 574-7919 to learn more!

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