In Connecticut, it is a crime to leave a child younger than the age of 12 in a car for an extended period of time. This is true even when the child has not been harmed as a result. There are two charges that can result: Leaving a Child Unsupervised in a Motor Vehicle under CGS 53-21a, or Risk of Injury to a Minor under CGS 53-21. It is a crime that could result in the parent or caregiver spending at least one year in jail when it occurs during the day and a felony when it occurs between the ages of 8 pm and 6 am. When it occurs during these nighttime hours, individuals may face up to ten years in prison.
State Representative Christie Carpino understands that these punishments do nothing for a child that may be suffering in a car. For that reason she introduced a bill that would protect good Samaritans from breaking into a car to help a child, but only if they believe the child is imminent danger. The law would also apply to situations in which children were left in extremely cold cars.
Good Samaritans must satisfy a few conditions before breaking into a car to save a child. They must first contact the local authorities, including the police who will also contact the local fire department. The individual must also stay with the child until those authorities arrive.
Children should not be left in a car for long periods of time for any reason, even when it does not seem unreasonably hot out. The temperature of the interior of a car can quickly rise to as much as 34 degrees above the outside temperature in as little as half an hour.
When the temperature outside is in the high 70s or low 80s, as it often is in Connecticut summers, that means the temperature inside a car can reach as high as 110; and the body starts shutting down at 104 degrees.
In Connecticut, cases of children left in hot cars are rare, but they have been known to have some of the most tragic outcomes. Residents of Connecticut must realize, however, that while the Good Samaritan law will protect them from breaking into a hot car to save a child, the law does not extend to dogs or other pets that have been left in hot cars.
Those who break into a hot car must also leave a note on the windshield for the owner of the car detailing their name, contact information, why they entered the vehicle and the location of the child. They must also include the fact that the local authorities have been called. Good Samaritans are required to use only as much force is necessary, in an attempt to cause as little damage possible.