Can I Leave My Child Alone in My Car for a Few Minutes?

You've got a busy life, and when you need to run errands, you might take your kids with you. Sometimes, you need to do something quickly – for instance, just running into the bank to deposit a check – and bringing your children along while you complete that specific task might slow you down. You consider leaving them in the car for just a few minutes, but then you wonder if that's a crime. The answer to that depends on how long you leave your child in the car and hold old they are.

Gone for Longer than 5 Minutes

Returning to the example of going into the bank for a quick deposit: Let's say that the trip will only take you about 1 minute. Under Texas Penal Code § 22.10, that's not a crime. The law provides that it's illegal to "knowingly or intentionally leave a child in a motor vehicle for longer than 5 minutes."

What this means, though, is that if your trip inside the bank takes more than 5 minutes, you could be charged with an offense. However, it's not the time alone that makes your actions illegal; the age of your child must also be considered.

A Child Younger than 7 Years of Age

The law prohibiting leaving a child in the car for more than 5 minutes also states that it applies only when the child is under 7 years of age. So if your child is older than that, you'll likely not be charged under this statute.

There is a time when you can leave your 6-year-old in your car for longer than 5 minutes, and that's when they're accompanied by someone 14 years of age or older. The other individual in the vehicle must be this age, meaning, even though you may not be charged with leaving your 8-year-old in a car alone, if you also have a 7-year-old in the vehicle, you're committing an offense.

Leaving a child unattended in a vehicle for more than 5 minutes is a Class C misdemeanor. If you're found guilty, you could be fined up to $500.

Neglectful Supervision Investigation

A fine isn't the only possible punishment you could face for leaving your child alone in your car. Because this type of conduct could result in harm to your kid, it's also considered neglectful supervision.

Neglectful supervision means that you have left a child in, or failed to remove them from, a situation that could cause harm, and a reasonable person would have known that the situation "required judgment or actions beyond the child's level of maturity, physical condition, or mental abilities.”

Child Protective Services investigates cases of neglectful supervision.

If you've been charged with an assaultive offense in San Antonio, our attorneys at LaHood Norton Law Group will put our over 70 years of combined experience to work to defend you. Speak with our team during a free consultation by calling us at (210) 801-9400 or contacting us online.