Las Vegas's infamous three-digit degree summers can prove fatal to children trapped in a hot car. That is partly why the Nevada Legislature passed the 2005 law that makes it a crime if you intentionally leave a child unattended in a vehicle under unsafe conditions.
Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers have decades of experience in both negotiating and litigating child endangerment cases and ultimately resolving the matters in our clients' favor. To learn more about the Nevada crime of leaving a child unattended in a car, scroll down.
The legal definition of "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."
In other words, it is a crime to leave a child under eight in a car if the keys are in the ignition or the conditions are potentially hazardous except when someone age twelve or older is actively supervising the child.
Note that police may break into cars to rescue unattended children without incurring liability for the damage they do to the car. Also note that this law applies only to motor vehicles, not to planes, boats, or trains.
The Las Vegas offense of leaving a child unattended in a car is extremely specific and outlaws a very narrow range of actions. Therefore your attorney would try to argue that your case falls outside the prohibited behavior. The following are three typical defense strategies:
- Conditions were safe. Leaving a child unattended in a car is okay as long as the keys are not in the ignition and the conditions do not present a "significant" health and safety risk. So if your attorney can show that your child faced no substantial dangers while in the car, your case should be dismissed.
- You did not act intentionally. NRS 202.575 pertains only to defendants who knowingly and intentionally left their children unattended. So if you honestly "forgot" that you left the child in the car, then you are not liable under this law.
- Insufficient evidence. Remember that the state has the burden to prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before he/she can be convicted. If your attorney can show through investigation and interrogation that the state's evidence is unreliable, spurious, and inadequate, then the charge should be dropped.
Las Vegas judges are usually willing to dismiss a first offense of violating NRS 202.575 as long as the defendant successfully completes an educational program concerning the dangers of leaving a child unattended in a car. Otherwise, the judge may impose a Nevada misdemeanor sentence of:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
But if the child suffered injuries from being left in the car, the prosecutors will instead bring felony charges for the Nevada crime of child endangerment. And if the child died, the defendant may face charges under Las Vegas homicide law. Either way, the punishment carries lengthy prison terms and high fines.
Charged with a crime? Call us . . . .
If you have been charged with leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle, phone 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). Our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers can meet with you for free to discuss whether we can get your case dismissed. And if the situation calls for it, know we are always ready to take your case to a jury and fight for you at trial.