Arizona law does not explicitly make the action of leaving a child in the car illegal. However, Arizona is especially known for its extreme heat and serious injury or death can occur if a child is left in a vehicle alone. Most people are surprised to hear that a child does not need to be physically injured for criminal charges to arise. If a child is seriously injured or killed—whether on accident or not—serious criminal charges will likely be filed against the adult responsible for leaving the child unattended in the vehicle.
What may seem reasonable to you may not seem reasonable to other nearby citizens or law enforcement officers. With a rise in child deaths as a result of being left unattended in a vehicle with excessive heat, Arizona citizens have become extremely nervous about leaving children unattended in a vehicle in any weather. Given this social uneasiness, people are quick to report a child left unattended in a vehicle, regardless of the weather. This can lead to criminal charges, such as child endangerment. The child does not need to suffer any injury for an adult to be charged with child endangerment.
Depending on the level of risk that law enforcement perceived the child was in, charges can range from a Class 1 Misdemeanor to a Class 6 Felony.
If you have been charged with placing a child in substantial risk of imminent physical injury, the charge is a Class 1 Misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.
If you have been charged with placing a child in substantial risk of imminent death, the charge is a Class 6 Felony punishable by 6 to 18 months in prison and/or fines exceeding $750.
While child endangerment laws are designed to punish behavior that might lead to a child becoming harmed, they do not require that a child suffer any physical injury. However, if a child is left unattended in a vehicle and suffers physical injury, much more serious crimes may be charged with substantial penalties—including probation, fines and lengthy prison time. Our trained criminal defense attorneys are prepared to deal with all possible outcomes resulting from such a tragedy.
The punishment stemming from these crimes have substantial effects on your life and follow you long after you have already served your sentence. Whatever the circumstances, if you find yourself in the situation where you are facing criminal charges as a result of leaving your child unattended in a vehicle, you should seek trained and professional legal counsel. Call AZ Defenders to schedule a free consultation. Our Phoenix lawyers will find every weakness in the evidence against you and use it to strengthen your case. We will fight aggressively for your rights in court, using every available defense to obtain the most favorable outcome possible.