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Category: Criminal Law
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Experience:  30 years legal experience
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Offense is "leave unattended child in vehicle. This happened

Resolved Question:

Offense is "leave unattended child in vehicle. This happened in PA. Appearance in court is required. Will this show up on public record?
Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  LawTalk replied 7 years ago.
Good afternoon,

I'm sorry to hear of your dilemma.

In most jurisdictions the leaving of a small child in a car, particularly if the car is left running, or in the sun, is treated as a form of child endangerment.

This is a very serious crime to be charged with and you will want to retain a local criminal law attorney to represent you.

Under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, child endangerment constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree or a felony of the third degree “when there is a course of conduct endangering the welfare of a child.” because there is no course of conduct here, you face the misdemeanor charge. And, while a jail sentence is rarely handed down in these types of cases where there was no harm done to the child, fines and probation are certainly a possibility.


Your attorney can attempt to reach an agreement whereby you get deferred prosecution, whereby when you complete the terms of your sentence, there will be no record in PA of a conviction.


I wish you the best in your future.





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Customer: replied 7 years ago.
No sun, car was not running. I simply brought my two other kids to the other side of the parking lot at summer camp. What I gather charge is under house bill 804 and is regarded same as talling on phone while driving?
Expert:  LawTalk replied 7 years ago.
Good afternoon,

If you were merely charged with the summary offense of leaving an unattended child in the car, then yes, it is treated as a less serious offense---as opposed to a charge of child endangerment, which is possible in that situation.

The law is quoted below:

§ 3701.1. Leaving an unattended child in a motor vehicle. (a) General rule.--A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person's sight and under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child. (a.1) Applicability.--This section shall apply to the highways and trafficways of this Commonwealth and, for the purposes of this section only, the term "trafficways" shall include, but not be limited to, parking lots. (b) Penalty.--A person who violates this section commits a summary offense. It is a separate offense for each child left unattended.

However, be aware that under PA law, you can be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail for each such summary offense. This is not just a traffic ticket. Because children are involved, and this can be a hot-button issue for some judges, I would not suggest that you go into court unrepresented. For your first offense it is unlikely that you will get any jail time. However, the offense has the ability to place a black mark on your criminal record.

I wish you the best.