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 4:45 pm 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 an investigation.
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 heatstroke 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 an 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 place 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, heatstroke 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.