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.
Nevada judges can dismiss a first-time NRS 202.485 offense if the defendant successfully completes a course about child safety. Otherwise, the defendant faces Nevada misdemeanor penalties of:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
Two common defenses to Nevada charges of leaving a child unattended in a car are:
- The conditions were not unsafe; or
- The defendant did not intentionally leave the child unattended
Depending on the case, the D.A. may agree to drop the charges or reduce it to a more minor misdemeanor as part of a plea bargain.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crime of leaving a child unattended in an automobile under NRS 202.485. Click on a topic below to jump to that section:
- 1. Legal definition
- 2. Nevada penalties for leaving a child alone in a motor vehicle
- 3. Defenses
- 4. Deportation
- 5. Record seals
NRS 202.485 makes it a crime in Nevada to intentionally leave a child under eight (8) years old in a car if the keys are in the ignition or the conditions are potentially hazardous. The only exception is when someone else at least age twelve (12) 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.1
1.1. Child endangerment and homicide charges
A reason NRS 202.485 exists is to deter parents and guardians from leaving kids alone in a hot car. Las Vegas’s infamous three-digit degree summers can prove harmful and sometimes fatal to children.2
If a child sustains injuries from being left unsupervised in a vehicle, the defendant would instead get charged with child endangerment (NRS 200.508(2)). And if the child dies, the defendant could be charged with a homicide crime.
Nevada judges may be willing to dismiss a first offense of violating NRS 202.485 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 misdemeanor sentence of:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines.3
Note that defendants who instead get charged with child endangerment or homicide face far more serious penalties, including time in Nevada State Prison.
NRS 202.485 is extremely specific and outlaws a very narrow range of actions. Therefore the defense attorney would try to argue that the defendant’s case falls outside the bounds of prohibited behavior. The following are two typical defense strategies:
- Conditions were safe; or
- The defendant did not act intentionally
In every case, the prosecution bears the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As long as the defense attorney can show that the prosecution is falling short of this threshold, Nevada criminal charges should not stand.
3.1. Conditions were safe
Leaving a young child alone in a car does not violate NRS 202.485 as long as the car is not running, no keys are in the ignition, and the conditions do not put the child’s health and safety at risk.
In these cases, the defense attorney would try to compile evidence that demonstrates that the child was in no danger. Examples include:
- weather reports showing that the temperature was mild;
- surveillance video that shows the car was off and had no keys in the ignition; or
- eyewitnesses who saw the child and were not concerned for its safety
If the D.A. cannot prove that the child was at any risk, then the charges should be dismissed.
3.2. The defendant did not act intentionally
NRS 202.485 punishes people who left a child alone in a car on purpose. This law is not meant to punish parents or guardians who genuinely forgot their child was in the backseat.
Accidents happen all the time, especially when people are tired and stressed from parenting small kids. Unless the D.A. can show that the defendant deliberately left the child in a risky situation, no crime occurred.
An NRS 202.485 violation is probably not a deportable offense in Nevada. Still, aliens facing even minor criminal charges should seek legal counsel because the state of immigration law is always in flux.
Defendants convicted of violating NRS 202.485 can ask the court to seal their criminal record once one (1) year has passed since the case closed. But if the charge got dismissed, then the defendant can ask for a record seal right away.4
Learn more about how Nevada record seals work.
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
If you have been charged with leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle, our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers can meet with you 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 trial and fight for a full acquittal.
See our related article, Is Leaving a Child Unattended a Crime in Nevada?
- NRS 202.485 Leaving child unattended in motor vehicle; penalty; exception.1. 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.2. A person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a misdemeanor. The court may suspend the proceedings against a person who is charged with violating subsection 1 and dismiss the proceedings against the person if the person presents proof to the court, within the time specified by the court, that the person has successfully completed an educational program satisfactory to the court. The educational program must include, without limitation, information concerning the dangers of leaving a child unattended or inadequately attended in a motor vehicle.3. A law enforcement officer or other person rendering emergency services who reasonably believes that a violation of this section has occurred may, without incurring civil liability, use any reasonable means necessary to protect the child and to remove the child from the motor vehicle.4. No person may be prosecuted under this section if the conduct would give rise to prosecution under any other provision of law.5. The provisions of this section do not apply to a person who unintentionally locks a motor vehicle with a child in the vehicle.
(formerly NRS 202.575)
- See Rachel Hershkovitz, “Toddler dies in Las Vegas after being left in hot car“, Las Vegas Review-Journal (July 15, 2017).
- NRS 202.485.
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.