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A New York father was arrested this week for leaving his children in a cold car -- a legal lesson that other parents won't want to learn the hard way this winter.
It was around 7 degrees below freezing when police found Luis Fajardo's two children parked inside a vehicle outside a shopping center on Long Island. Fajardo, 32, was arrested when he returned to the car.
How is it that parents like Fajardo get arrested for leaving kids in a cold car?
Some States Prohibit Leaving Children Unattended
According to WCBS-TV, witnesses say Fajardo's children were left unattended in his 1999 Mazda sedan for at least 15 minutes before police arrived on the scene. It doesn't seem like much time at all for children to be left unsupervised, but there are more than a dozen states where doing so is its own crime.
KidsAndCars.org, an advocacy group focused on non-traffic car risks for children, cites 19 states which specifically criminalize leaving children unattended in a car.
So had Fajardo left his children alone in a cold car in California, he could potentially be facing a separate $100 fine and/or community education class on the risks of leaving children unattended. In Michigan, a state slightly more prone to cold temperatures, a parent like Fajardo could face jail time for leaving kids unattended in a vehicle -- even if his or her children were unharmed.
Other Charges Are Possible
New York is not one of the 19 states with "child-in-car" laws, but Fajardo is still facing criminal charges of child endangerment. He's due back in court next month, WCBS-TV reports.
Leaving your young children alone in a freezing car -- even if only to run a few errands -- may leave them at risk for hypothermia, which would likely qualify as child endangerment.
Endangering the welfare of a child by putting them in a potentially risky situation is a misdemeanor in New York. In most states, it can lead to jail time if you're convicted.
And though it didn't happen in this case, if a child in your care dies as a result of being left unattended in a car, you may be charged with manslaughter. Children die every year from being left in cars during lethal summer heat, and the same result can potentially happen when the temperature swings down low.
This threat is real for law enforcement -- in hot or cold temperatures -- and parents may face arrest for leaving the kids in a cold car.