While Nevada's deserts may be known for their heat, residents know that during the winter things can get very cold, especially at night. If you leave your child unattended in a car when it's extremely cold, you could face Nevada criminal charges.
“Knowingly and Intentionally” Leaving a Child Unattended in a Car is a Crime
Like 18 other states, Nevada makes it a crime to leave a child unattended in a car in certain circumstances. Specifically, NRS 202.575 makes it a crime for a parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who is 7 years of age or younger to:
- knowingly and intentionally leave that child in a motor vehicle if:
- the conditions present a significant risk to the health and safety of the child; or
- 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.
Note that the adult must have knowingly and intentionally left the child in the car in order to be charged under this law. Leaving your child in the car by mistake is not a violation, as “the provisions of this section do not apply to a person who unintentionally locks a motor vehicle with a child in the vehicle.”
Hypothermia and Frostbite Are Significant Risks
While the dangers of leaving a child in a hot car have been more publicized because of tragic instances of children dying from heat stroke, leaving a child in a cold car can have equally devastating consequences. Specifically:
- Kids are at a higher risk for hypothermia or frostbite in cold conditions because of their smaller body size and their bodies' inability to make enough body heat through shivering.
- If a child's body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit – which can happen very quickly in a car in cold conditions - they can suffer frostbite or hypothermia.
- A child wearing heavy or restrictive closing and strapped in a car seat can actually increase the danger of suffering from hypothermia.
Since it is also a crime to leave a child unattended in a car with the engine running, keeping the heat on in the car won't spare you from charges. Additionally, in snowy conditions, snow can block the car's exhaust pipe putting a child left in the car at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning.
A violation of NRS 202.575 is a Nevada misdemeanor. While penalties can be up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines, the law gives Nevada judges the discretion to dismiss a first offense if the defendant successfully completes an educational program concerning the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a car.
While NRS 202.575 only applies to unattended kids under the age of eight, leaving an older child unattended in a car under dangerous conditions could still lead to criminal charges under Nevada child endangerment law.
Child endangerment charges can also be brought instead of charges under NRS 202.575 if the child suffered injuries or other serious health consequences. If a child dies, it is possible that the parent or other adult responsible could face homicide charges.
Regardless of the charges, if you are facing prosecution for an offense related to leaving a child unattended in a vehicle, you should retain an experienced Nevada criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Please give us a call so we can ensure that your rights are protected. Learn more in our article, Leaving a child alone in a car in Nevada.