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  1. #1
    tanden5 is offline Junior Member tanden5 is on a distinguished road
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    Leaving a child "unattended" in a car

    While picking up my 4 year old from preschool, I left my older daughter alone in the car--she's 6. I turned off the car and locked it initially but then I opened the side door anticipating that my 4 year old would be getting in. I didn't go into the preschool, I was outside, maybe 50 feet from my car. I was talking to the teacher for maybe 10 minutes. My six year old was yelling at me to hurry up, so I was close enough to the car to hear her. Was this wrong? illegal? This is one of the things I always question as a parent.

    BTW, I live in Virginia. The laws are pretty ambiguous here and this is what I found:

    VIRGINIA
    VA currently has PROPOSED legislation regarding children left unattended in a motor vehicle.
    HB 2711 Child unattended in a car; unlawful for younger than six years.
    William K. Barlow

    Summary as introduced:
    Child unattended in a car; penalty. Provides that it is unlawful for any person who is responsible for a child younger than six years of age to leave such child unattended in a motor vehicle if the conditions within the vehicle or in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle, including outside temperature, present a risk to the health or safety of the child. The penalty for a first offense is a $100 civil penalty, for a second offense a Class 4 misdemeanor, and for a third or subsequent offense a Class 3 misdemeanor.

    Exactly what is considered "unattended"? Even if it's not illegal, is it neglectful? Abandonment? If someone had reported me, is CPS likely to visit my home or question my kids?

    I'm not likely to do this again. While I don't think what I did was wrong, I have a feeling there are a lot of people who'd be willing to jump with both feet into my business and report me.

    Your thoughts?

  2. #2
    marinepilot's Avatar
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    I think you answered your own question by posting the proposed rule. The rule is intended for people who leave children UNDER 6 in a vehicle unattended. You stated your child is already 6, so I can't see that any law (or future law as that is what you posted) was broken.

    Was it a great idea? Sounds like you were close enough to hear her yelling at you, and could keep her in sight the whole time, so to me, it doesn't sound as if she was completely "unattended." I personally wouldn't report you to any agency. To me, unattended means you went inside the building to where you couldn't see or hear your child in the car, and would have been unable to do anything about anyone attempting to either steal your car or harm your child. (And believe me, I've seen it.)

    Just my 2 cents.
    "Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have made a difference in the world. Marines don't have that problem." - Ronald Reagan

    Sgt. Ervin Romans (OPD) - EOW March 21, 2009

  3. #3
    tanden5 is offline Junior Member tanden5 is on a distinguished road
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    What about if your car is parked in your own driveway? I can't tell you how many times I've gotten all my kids strapped in, ready to go to school when I realized that I forgot my cell phone in the house. Are the rules for "unattendance" the same on your private property as they are in public? If you run into the house for a minute, unable to see or hear your kids, is that against the law? And seriously, who hasn't done this? Anyone who says they haven't are a big fat bunch of liars, IMO.

  4. #4
    marinepilot's Avatar
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    In Florida, the statute states that you can't leave a child under 6 unattended in your vehicle for more than 15 minutes or for any amount of time if the motor is running or the health of the child is in danger. By the rules here where I am, you'd be alright with running in your house to get one last thing with the vehicle in your own driveway.

    For what it's worth, I think you're worrying a bit too much. Try to use a little common sense. Which is more dangerous to leave your kids unattended? Your driveway or a public parking lot? In your driveway you state you leave them for a few moments to retrieve one thing from your house. In the public parking lot, you state you're within sight and hearing distance. When I break it down like that, doesn't it sound more reasonable?

    Also, I believe your last sentence there was a bit unneeded. But again, that's just me.
    "Some people live an entire lifetime and wonder if they have made a difference in the world. Marines don't have that problem." - Ronald Reagan

    Sgt. Ervin Romans (OPD) - EOW March 21, 2009

  5. #5
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    Legal or illegal at this point is a moot point. I think the fact that you are even considering or thinking about this means you actually are questioning yourself....which is a good thing. Many times laws say something is OK, but we take issue with it for whatever reason. I think you may believe what you did was a little wrong but trying to make yourself feel better by justifying it is not against the law.

    I think you are doing a heck of a job at parenting and are open minded and reviewing your own actions. I don't think you broke the law...but don't break your own chops to much.
    -In God we trust. All others, put your hands on the car and don't move.

  6. #6
    tanden5 is offline Junior Member tanden5 is on a distinguished road
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    I have to admit, I felt a little guilty afterwords. In the moment, I made a judgement call and I thought it was absolutely safe for me to leave her in the car. But when I got back in my car that little voice inside my head said "maybe you shouldn't have done that". I don't think what I did was wrong, but other people might have, and all it takes in one person to call the cops and there I am trying to justify myself and my actions. I think the police can be a little heavy handed at times, and just because I think it's reasonable, doesn't mean the officer who is responding will. I'm a rule follower by nature and when it comes to my kids, I'm the best parent I can be (which is why I care so much!), but I'm human too. As a citizen, I'm expected to know the rules (igonorance of the law is no excuse, right?), and the truth is, right now there isn't a clear cut rule in my state. From now on, she goes with me. I'm not taking any chances.

  7. #7
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    Md it's 100 feet, out of sight, and earshot.

  8. #8
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    There is one service station nearby that I use when I have my four year old on board. It is in the country and I have clear visibility from the counter to the pump, and if I can't get on that side of the pump I either wait or I come back later. The counter is about ten feet from the door and it means that I am only about five feet from my car and only with glass between me and my son and great visibility for miles, and I still usually lock the doors and with the window down a little for air. If it is even slightly warm, then forget it.

    I make every effort to fill my car when my son is not in the car and plan ahead for every step.

    There is no other time I leave him in the car alone. It only takes a minute or two to get him in and out. And I know the risk is so remote, but every time I hear of someone getting their car stolen with a kid on board I think what if that was me. I could never forgive myself. There is nothing I am doing in life that is more important than my son or can't wait two minutes more to get him out.

    Did backfire though when I used to pick him up from daycare and one day I really wanted a drink. I didn't want to stop at any shop and go through the drama of getting him in and out etc, so I went through McDonalds drive thru. He discovered Maccas and life has never been the same.

    Luckily he only wants to play on their playground and not eat their food.
    "He didn't want to tell the cop he was on his way to the Butt Pirate Palace for a little two-step with Joe-Joe during the Village People marathon." - Cat_Doc
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