Everyone knows not to leave a child alone in a car on a hot day. Even on mildly warm days, the interior temperature of a vehicle can quickly reach upwards of 120 degrees, and the results can be fatal for children. Every summer, there are countless horror stories of moms, dads, and caregivers who forget a child in the back seat of a car and learn of their tragic moment of forgetfulness when they return to the vehicle later in the day.
Charges of Child Neglect
There are parents who will intentionally leave a child in the car while they run a quick errand. Often, these parents feel their children are safe and protected because they leave the doors locked and the air conditioner running. However, not only is this often ill-advised, as overheating is not the only danger associated with being left unattended in a vehicle, in Oklahoma, it is against the law.
Last week, a Yukon woman was arrested and charged with child neglect after she left her 3-year-old twins unattended in her car as she shopped in a cosmetics store. Oklahoma City police noticed the children in the vehicle, which was left running with the air conditioner on. Police waited 40 minutes until the mother returned to the vehicle. Desiree Lynn Bolch, 35, was arrested on child neglect complaints and her children were taken into DHS custody.
Neglect Laws in Oklahoma
Oklahoma is one of 19 states that expressly forbids leaving children alone in vehicles. The Forget-Me-Not Vehicle Safety Act enacted in 2008 criminalizes leaving children and vulnerable adults unattended in motor vehicles. The Act is outlined in 47 O.S. § 11-1119:
B. A person responsible for a child who is six (6) years of age or younger, or a caretaker of a vulnerable adult as defined by Section 10-103 of Title 43A of the Oklahoma Statutes, shall not leave that child or vulnerable adult unattended in a motor vehicle if the conditions, including, but not limited to, extreme weather, inadequate ventilation, or hazardous or malfunctioning components within the vehicle present a risk to the health or safety of the unattended child or vulnerable adult.
C. It shall not be considered a violation of this section if the child or vulnerable adult is accompanied in the motor vehicle by a person at least twelve (12) years of age who is not mentally incompetent as defined by Section 1-103 of Title 43A of the Oklahoma Statutes. D. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by:
1. A fine of not less than Fifty Dollars ($50.00) upon a first conviction;
2. A fine of not less than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) and ordered to perform community service of not less than fifty (50) hours upon a second conviction; and
3. A fine of not less than Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) upon a third or subsequent conviction, and the full record of that person's convictions of the violations of this section shall be submitted to the Department of Human Services for evaluation.
E. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of this section who has left a child or vulnerable adult unattended in a motor vehicle on the premises of any establishment which holds any license for the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises pursuant to Section 521 of Title 37 of the Oklahoma Statutes, and who has consumed any alcoholic beverage during the period of time the child or vulnerable adult has been unattended, shall be punished by a fine of not less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00).
Although the law describes obvious hazards, it also says hazardous conditions are not limited to those listed. This leaves the law open to the interpretation of police when making an arrest if he or she believes the child was placed at risk of harm by being left alone.Child neglect complaints are serious allegations, particularly if a parent does not believe he or she was placing the child in harm's way. Consult experienced legal representation to restore your family as quickly as possible.