Last March I wrote about the growing problem of parents leaving their kids in the car unsupervised while the parents quickly ran an errand, grabbed coffee, or picked up the dry cleaning. I wrote about how Greenwich, Darien and Stamford police seem to be arresting more parents for 53-21a Leaving Child Unsupervised, and even 53-21 Felony Risk of Injury / Child Endangerment charges in the Stamford, Danbury and Norwalk Superior Courts. Back then, I argued that what is really needed in most of these cases is a warning—not an arrest. But then a tragic example of this fact pattern appeared to have taken place in July in Ridgefield where a 15-month-old toddler died while allegedly left unsupervised in a car. While there have been no arrests in that case, it has further elevated sensitivity to this crime, leading to what appears to be more arrests and less warnings for 53-21a Leaving Children Unsupervised in a Motor Vehicle.
So the question remains—whether a warning from police is enough to correct this behavior or are felony 53-21a Leaving Child Unsupervised or 53-21 Risk of Injury arrests really necessary to get the message through to parents? Here’s why Stamford police are not taking any chances and cracking down on these cases…
There is little wiggle room with Leaving Child Unsupervised and Risk of Injury cases these days. Whether temperatures are over 80 degrees or below freezing, police are very sensitive to how outside temperatures can affect a child’s health…even if is just for a few minutes. The best Stamford Connecticut criminal lawyers have seen tragic cases where a parent intends to leave their sleeping child in a car for just a few minutes, but then suddenly gets sidetracked by running into a friend and chatting them up, getting an unexpected cell phone call that runs long, or getting caught up text messaging and forgetting that their child is sleeping in a hot or freezing car. Connecticut police feel that the risks of suffocation or hypothermia to children are just too serious to give a parent a pass with a mere warning. That’s when you can get arrested in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien or New Canaan for Leaving Your Child Unsupervised under 53-21a or Risk of Injury to a Minor under 53-21.
The precise law we’re talking about is CGS 53-21a, which makes it illegal for leaving a child under the age of 12 years old alone in public or in a motor vehicle for a period of time that presents a risk to the child’s health or safety. This crime is classified as a Class A misdemeanor. If the child is left alone under the same conditions between 8pm and 6am, then the 53-21a arrest in Stamford, Greenwich or Darien is raised to a Class C felony charge, punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a $10,000 fine.
Stamford, Greenwich or Darien police will sometimes simultaneously or alternatively arrest parents who leave their children unsupervised in a car with Risk of Injury to a Minor under CGS 53-21, another felony charge which can result in stiff jail sentences, fines and probation. Regardless of which felony charge is cited by Stamford police, one thing is certain: prosecutors take these charges seriously because of what could have happened in these situations, even if the child is not injured from the alleged lack of supervision. As top Stamford criminal lawyers would argue, the preferred charge is 53-21a because it is a misdemeanor and easier for a top Greenwich or Stamford criminal lawyer to negotiate and possibly get dismissed.
Many foreigners and foreign nationals arrested in Stamford, Darien, Wilton and New Canaan for 53-21 and 53-21a Risk of Injury and Leaving Children Unsupervised point prosecutors to the fact that they are from another country and culture where this conduct is not criminal. As with any other Connecticut law that prohibits conduct that is legal in other countries, this is unfortunately not a viable defense that can get your charges quickly dismissed. It is, however, a reasonable explanation that your top Stamford criminal lawyer may be able to use in their mitigation and leniency arguments with Connecticut prosecutors. So be sure to share your personal cultural history with your top Connecticut criminal lawyer in your 53-21a Leaving Children Unsupervised case.
Additionally, be aware that whenever you are arrested in Stamford, Darien or Greenwich with 53-21a Leaving Children Unsupervised or 53-21 Risk of Injury, a Connecticut DCF Investigation will automatically be triggered. Here, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) will launch either a high-risk abuse or neglect investigation of you and your children, or a low-risk “Family Assessment Response” (or “FAR” inquiry) that will delve into your child’s home life, health and education to make sure they are safe. For more information on Stamford and Greenwich DCF investigations, or to see whether you need a lawyer if DCF comes to your house or door, click here.
So if you are arrested in Stamford, Darien, Greenwich, Weston or Wilton for Leaving Your Child Unsupervised under 53-21a or Risk of Injury to a Minor under 53-21, contact a top Stamford and Norwalk criminal lawyer today to learn whether you can get your charges dismissed as quickly as possible, and how to quickly clear your family’s good name with Connecticut DCF investigators.