It is a phenomenon that we have seen repeatedly in news stories across the country in recent months: parents leaving their young children unattended in the car while they go shopping or to a job interview. And now a Skokie, Illinois woman has been charged with child endangerment for leaving her toddler in the car while she went to work, a misdemeanor under Illinois law.
Illinois Child Endangerment
Under Illinois law, an individual commits the crime of child endangerment if she knowingly causes the child’s life or health to be endangered, or causes the child to be placed in circumstances where his life or health would be endangered. Child endangerment is a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by less than one year in jail and up to a $2,500 fine.
There is a rebuttable presumption that a child under the age of six is unattended if left in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes, and that his life or health was put in danger. A rebuttable presumption means that the trier of fact (either the judge or jury) may assume that the child was left unattended, but the defendant can provide evidence to rebut that presumption.
Children left in cars is common, and most parents are unaware that Illinois has laws against leaving children unattended in motor vehicles. In some cases, there is no neglect at all. Call it a momentary lapse in judgment, or in some cases even an unfortunate accident.
Defense of Child Endangerment
Of course, there are cases of truly neglectful parents who place their child’s life and health in danger – parents who go off drinking, doing drugs or gambling. But for others, like the ones mentioned above, it is an accident, or a choosing of the lesser of two evils. What type of defense is there against these charges? Defense of both of these types of incidents involves looking at the specific facts of the case to determine if the parent knew that he was leaving the child alone and if he did in fact leave the child alone.
For the parent who forgets that their child was in the car, the charge of child endangerment rests on the word “knowingly”. If the parent can prove that he did not realize he had left his child in the car, then he cannot have knowingly placed the child’s life or health in danger.
For the parent who leaves the child for a short time, defense would hinge on whether the child was truly unattended. Illinois law states that for purposes of leaving a child unattended, the child must have been out of sight of the adult. For instance, if the parent ran in to the bank, could he see the car and the child at all times, perhaps through a window or a door? Did the parent have the ability to see or hear the child from inside the building, perhaps through the use of a monitor left in the car that was able to be seen or heard through the parent’s cell phone? If the parent could prove that he was, in fact, ‘tending to’ the child, then he cannot be charged with child endangerment. Chicago Child Endangerment Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with child endangerment, child abuse or any other misdemeanor in Chicago, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The possibility of any jail time or fine, even if just a misdemeanor, is a blight on your criminal record and can disrupt your work and home life, as well as your reputation. With 18 years of experience handling all facets of criminal law, the Law Office of David L. Freidberg, P.C. is a zealous defender of those accused of misdemeanors. With offices in Cook, DuPage and Lake Counties, we are ready to help. Call us at 312-560-7100 or contact our office today for a free consultation. We are available 24/7 for your convenience.