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Dangerous heat: What Michigan law says about leaving children in hot cars

Doing so could result in fines, jail time

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DETROIT – It only takes a few minutes for inside a parked vehicle to get dangerously hot.

On a 90-degree day, temperatures inside a vehicle can spike to more than 100 degrees in a matter of minutes.

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With a heat wave plaguing southeast Michigan, it's especially important that children and pets are not left in parked vehicles. Michigan has laws about leaving children in cars, but not pets, though there has been a push to add such laws to protect animals.

What the law says

State law says that a person who is caring for a child 6 years old or younger should not leave the child unattended in a vehicle for a period of time or under circumstances that pose "unreasonable risk of harm or injury."

A child is considered unattended when they are not being supervised by someone 13 years or older, according to state law.

A person who leaves a child in a hot vehicle is subject to a misdemeanor. If the child sustains serious physical harm or dies as a result of being left in a hot vehicle, the person who left the child will be charged with a felony.

Michigan law defines physical harm as "any injury to a child's physical condition," while serious physical harm is defined as " any physical injury to a child that seriously impairs the child's health or
physical well-being, including, but not limited to, brain damage, a skull or bone fracture, subdural
hemorrhage or hematoma, dislocation, sprain, internal injury, poisoning, burn or scald, or severe cut."

The punishments

Just leaving a child in a hot vehicle could result in misdemeanor offense that carries up to 93 days in jail and/or a fine up to $500.

If a child suffers physical harm as a result of being left in a vehicle, the person who left them could face up to one year before bars and/or a fine up to $1,000.

If a child suffers serious physical harm, the punishment increases to a felony offense that carries up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine up to $5,000.

If a child dies, the penalty is  up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.


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