Leaving a Child in a Car

Whatever the circumstances, you put a minor at risk of harm whenever you leave them unattended in the vehicle. Nevada has taken measures to protect children by enacting NRS 202.485, which criminalizes leaving a minor unattended in the car and punishes those found guilty. Therefore, you should go for a safe and responsible alternative when you find yourself in a position where a particular decision would harm a child.

Nevertheless, some unfortunate situations can result in charges for leaving a child in a car. If you face the allegations, you should understand the crime and exceptions to develop viable defenses. At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we will define the crime and its penalties and evaluate your case to find circumstances to help us fight the accusations for a charge reduction or dismissal in Las Vegas.

Leaving a Child in a Car Legal Definition

NRS 202.485 makes leaving a minor 7 years or younger in an automobile unattended and unsafe conditions illegal.

The statute specifically states that a lawful guardian, parent, or any other party in charge of a minor seven years of age or younger shall not deliberately or willfully leave that minor in an automobile if:

  • The conditions in the auto pose a threat to the safety and well-being of the child.
  • When the car keys are in the ignition or the motor running.

The statute, however, has an exception. You, a parent, a lawful guardian, or a party responsible for looking after a child can leave them in an auto if they are under active supervision or within sight of an individual twelve or older.

If you violate the provisions of this statute, you risk charges for a misdemeanor offense.

You will better understand the crime of leaving a minor in an automobile if you know the definitions of particular terms. A car, automobile, or motor vehicle under NRS.483 is self-propelled and not operated on rails. It refers to:

  • Trucks.
  • Minivans.
  • Passenger cars.
  • Autos.
  • Motor-propelled vehicles.

However, the definition does not apply to trains, boats or planes.

Another term you should understand is a child or minor. In this case, it refers to any individual seven years of age or younger.

Actions Prohibited In NRS.485

It is a crime for you, as a parent, lawful guardian, or party responsible for a minor seven years of age or younger, to intentionally leave them in an automobile unattended in potentially dangerous conditions or with the keys in the ignition unless a person 12 years of age or older is actively supervising them.

Examples of acts that amount to a violation of the statute are:

  • Jane goes household shopping with her three-year-old son. While loading the shopping into the vehicle, she realized she had forgotten to pick up some items on her shopping list. Because she is in a hurry, she leaves the minor in the vehicle and returns to the mall to pick up the remaining items. Under these circumstances, Jane has violated the law.
  • John is driving his five-year-old daughter to school in the morning, and on the way, he realizes that he needs to stop at the gas station for a refill. He leaves the daughter in the car and proceeds to pump the gas. As John waits, he recalls that the child needs some snacks for school. Instead of making another stop, he decides to buy the snacks in the store at the gas station. He walks into the store and leaves the daughter unattended in the vehicle. In this situation, John has violated NRS.485.

Looking at these examples, you will realize most defendants face these charges because of poor reasoning. Therefore, whenever you find yourself in a position where your choices could harm your child, it is best to take responsible action and keep the child safe. 

Penalties for the Driving Offense

A violation of NRS 202.485 is a misdemeanor. The judge presiding over your case can opt to suspend the legal proceedings against you for the violation of subsection one and dismiss the charges if you furnish the court with proof that you have enrolled and completed an education program on the risks of leaving a minor unattended or insufficiently attended in a vehicle. The evidence of the program must be brought to court within the provided duration. Otherwise, the misdemeanor charges against you will go on.

If convicted of the misdemeanor offense, you risk the following penalties:

  • No more than half a year in jail.
  • Monetary court fines not exceeding $1,000.

NRS 202.485 exists to protect minors from harm. Therefore, you should understand and follow the statute to avoid charges and a possible conviction for the violation. If you want to leave a minor alone in the car, remember that the law can hold you criminally culpable for endangering a child’s well-being and safety.

Las Vegas is infamous for high temperatures in the summer. Leaving a minor in the vehicle when the weather is three-digit degrees can be hazardous and sometimes fatal. If your child sustains injuries after being left unattended in the car, you will face charges for child endangerment. NRS 200.508 defines the offense as intentionally putting a child under 18 in a position that endangers their physical and mental safety. Leaving your child in an auto and sustaining injuries is a gross misdemeanor punishable by $2,000 in financial court fines and twelve months of jail incarceration.

Consequently, when the child in the automobile dies because of the hazardous conditions you left them in, you will face homicide charges.

Legal Defenses

The range of actions NRS.485 outlaws is exceptionally narrow. Therefore, you need to demonstrate to the judge that your activities fall outside the scope provided by the law and, consequently, are innocent of the charges. It is not easy to contest these charges on your own. You need help from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we will evaluate your case to find defensible circumstances to help us prevent a conviction or obtain a favorable ruling. The defenses we will mount are:

The Conditions Were Safe

The prosecutor is the party that holds the burden of proof in criminal cases and must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the conditions you left the minor in were unsafe and posed a risk to their health. Dangerous conditions mean the car motor is running, the key is in the ignition, or the weather is too hot or cold for the child. The charges will be dropped if none of these factors apply to your case or the prosecutor does not meet the evidentiary standard.

Your defense attorney can argue that the windows were down when you left the minor in the car and that the day's weather reports indicate mild temperatures. Also, the attorney can present video footage to show that the car's engine was off and the keys were not in the ignition. Again, you can call eyewitnesses who saw the minor in the car to testify that they were never concerned about the child’s safety after seeing them alone.

Your Conduct Was Not Intentional

Another argument against the allegations is to claim that the prosecutor lacks sufficient evidence to demonstrate that you left the child in the car intentionally. If the prosecutor cannot prove beyond moral certainty that leaving the child in the vehicle was on purpose, you can challenge their assertions. You can claim that you forgot that the minor was in the backseat because you were in a hurry, stressed, or tired. Unless the prosecutor can show you left the child behind in the car on purpose, the court will find you not guilty.

You must prepare these defenses adequately if you want to avoid a conviction. So, if you are apprehended for an NRS.485 violation in Las Vegas, NV, do not hesitate to contact our attorneys at The Law Offices of Martin Hart for legal guidance, to evaluate your case, and to develop viable defenses.

Sealing the Records

A conviction for the driving offense of leaving a minor in a vehicle will haunt you for a long time. Luckily, twelve months after the sentence, you can petition the court to seal the records so they are no longer accessible to the public. With sealed records, your previous apprehensions or convictions will not appear when someone runs a background check. With a sealed criminal record, you can confidently tell an employer that you have never been convicted of a crime without lying, preventing discrimination based on your prior criminal history.

At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we will not end our relationship if the case ends with a conviction. We will be available post-conviction to help seal the records and give you a clean slate. The record-sealing process is complex; to increase the chances of its success, you need the help of an attorney.

The record-sealing process involves several stages. These are:

  • Obtaining the SCOPE Report

After you have been convicted of leaving a minor in an automobile unsupervised, you will need a certified report on your criminal history, commonly known as the SCOPE. You can obtain a copy from the Metropolitan Police Department in Las Vegas. If it was your first offense and the judge dismissed it after providing proof of taking child endangerment classes, the records will be automatically sealed. However, if you were convicted of the offense, you must wait twelve months before filing the petition to seal the documents.

If the child sustained injuries and you were convicted of child endangerment, the conviction is for a gross misdemeanor, so you must wait for twenty-four months before you can file the petition for record sealing.

Also, you must acquire the “judgment of conviction and discharge” from the court clerk if you wish to seal a conviction record.

  • Pick the Appropriate Court

Take your time to read the SCOPE and find out where you should file your petition. If the charges happened in one court, you should file the petition with the same court.

  • Prepare the Necessary Paperwork

Once you have identified the court to file your record-sealing petition, it is time to start preparing the necessary paperwork. Your defense attorney will help you compose the petition, sworn statement, and order. To download these templates, you can visit the Clark County District Attorney’s Recording Sealing site.

The forms are not handwritten. You must type them and ensure you capture the following details:

  1. All your apprehensions.
  2. The law enforcement authorities that made the apprehension.
  3. The arrest dates.
  4. The type of criminal charge.
  5. The final court’s verdict, including a conviction, acquittal, or dismissal.

Sometimes, the SCOPE does not contain information regarding the court’s judgment on your case. In these situations, you must contact the relevant police department or court for details.

After completing the paperwork, the next step is to add your signature. Do not forget to include the date and make three copies of all the documentation you are filing with the court.

  • Mail or Drop Off the Paperwork to the District Attorney’s (DA) Office

The next phase is to deliver the paperwork to the DA. The package you provide should include the SCOPE, judge’s conviction or discharge, original affidavit, motion, and three copies of all these documents.

  • Deliver the Paperwork to Court

The DA will go through your petition to seal records, and if they are not opposed to it, they will sign the order and deliver it to the court clerk. The clerk then takes the order to the judge, who signs it because the prosecutor already signed it.

Once the judge appends their signature, the forms will be mailed back to you. It is your responsibility to deliver copies of the approved record-sealing petition to all the relevant parties so that they can remove your name from the criminal database.

It is worth noting that if the DA is against your petition, you must file a motion directly with the court for a hearing. You will present your arguments for record sealing and the DA's against the petition, after which the court will decide.

Find a Skilled Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me

Charges of leaving a minor unattended in a vehicle in Las Vegas can result in serious repercussions. It would help if you contested the allegations or crafted appropriate defense strategies to avoid a conviction and criminal record. We can provide legal guidance and court representation at The Law Offices of Martin Hart. Contact us today at 702-380-4278 to schedule a meeting.