A Fullerton couple was arrested on Sunday after police found their three-year-old
daughter locked inside their van outside Brea Mall.
According to reports, a witness spotted the girl in a black Nissan Quest
van at about 4:45pm and called the police. It was about 91 degrees outside
at the time, and the temperature inside the vehicle was a sweltering 104
degrees. The windows of the vehicle were rolled up.
Police arrived on the scene and showed the girl how to unlock the van doors
from the inside of the vehicle. She was then taken to the hospital and
has been reported as in good condition. Police believe she was in the
vehicle for about 15 to 20 minutes. After she was discharged from the
hospital, the girl was released to a relative.
The girl's parents were then arrested on suspicion of
felony child endangerment and booked into the Brea City Jail on $100,000 bonds.
They were released from jail Sunday night after posting bond.
Police are still investigating the incident to determine whether to press
charges, and the Orange County Social Services Agency will also be conducting
Cases like this are taken very seriously, as temperatures inside cars can
rise rapidly during hot and even warm summer days. Children can suffer
serious injuries and even die from heat stroke after being left in hot
vehicles, even when outside temperatures are about 80 degrees. On an 80-degree
day, the temperature inside a locked vehicle may reach 99 degrees after
just 10 minutes, 109 degrees after 20 minutes and 114 degrees after 30
minutes. Due to the potential for serious injury or death, parents who
intentionally (or even negligently) leave their children alone in locked
vehicles may face child endangerment charges.
In California, child endangerment charges are covered under California
Penal Code § 273a. This criminal offense allegedly occurs when a
parent, guardian or other person charged with the care of a child:
- Causes or allows a child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or suffering;
- Willfully causes or allows a child to suffer injury; or
- Willfully causes or allows a child to be placed in a dangerous situation.
For a child endangerment case involving a child being left in a hot car,
the third scenario may apply, as the parent or guardian could be accused
of causing or allowing the child to be in a dangerous situation. Even
if the child did not suffer any resulting injury, child endangerment charges
may still be filed, as they apply to placing or allowing the child to
be in the situation in the first place. If the child suffers harm, additional
criminal charges may apply.
Child endangerment may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, with penalties
ranging from up to one year in county jail to two, four or six years in
state prison. Felony charges generally apply if there was a risk of great
bodily harm or death to the child. In the case above, the temperature
inside the vehicle may have placed the child at risk of heat exhaustion,
heat stroke or death, depending on how long she was left unattended. The
true circumstances of the situation, however, will only be revealed through
a thorough investigation.
Challenging Child Endangerment Charges in Orange County
As a parent, facing child endangerment charges is an extremely serious
matter. Not only may you face serious criminal penalties if convicted,
you may face losing custody of your child or children. That is why you
need to act quickly to involve an attorney who can protect your rights
and interests. Your charges may have arisen from a misunderstanding or
situation that was truly out of your control, and you need someone who
can fight to show your side of the story. Call an
Orange County criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman today for a confidential consultation
and review of your case.