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Charges Vary When Children Are Injured In Hot Cars

Since 1990, there have been more than 900 deaths in the United States where children have been left in hot cars. On average, 38 children die this way every year. In the past week alone, four children have died in hot cars. Two were a set of twins in the Bronx, a Florida toddler who was left in a daycare van, and a baby girl found in a hot vehicle at a car wash in Texas. These deaths bring the total of hot car child deaths in 2019 to 25. The rising number of these kinds of deaths are leaving authorities, parents, and advocacy groups looking for answers to stop the tragedies. 

The New York Times reports that the charges a parent faces when a child is left in a hot car to die can depend on the situation.

In 2014, a father in Upstate New York dropped his two older children off at school and then parked his car outside his home and went to work. He forgot that his 15-month-old daughter was still in the back seat. She died of heatstroke. 

In 2016, an infant boy was left in a hot vehicle while his father, a police officer, did chores around the house. 

Last week, a social worker dropped his four-year-old child off at daycare and went to work in the Bronx. He forgot that his 1-year-old twins were in the back seat of the vehicle. The twins died. 

Though these incidents are all strikingly similar, the way that prosecutors handled the incidents was not. The father of the twins has been charged with manslaughter, while the two upstate fathers never faced any charges. 

The organization called KidsandCars.org identified 494 cases where caregivers said they were not aware they had left their child in the car. In 43% of the cases, no charges were filed. In 32% of the cases, the caregiver was charged and convicted. In 11% of the cases, the person was charged but not convicted. The remaining 14% of cases are still open or their status is unknown. 

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