Hot Car Deaths – Should Parents be Criminally Convicted?

July 12, 2010

The 4th of July has come and gone and now summer has truly arrived.  Triple digit temperatures are causing heat advisories in various parts of the country.  It does not take long for children and the elderly to become dehydrated.  It might seem obvious, but do not leave children in hot cars.  Hot Car deaths can lead not only to charges of parental abuse and neglect, but ultimately criminal charges as well.

In the WestlawNext Search box, type in:   HOT CAR DEATHS.  See the secondary source listed in the Overview screen –  CRIME AND PARENTHOOD: THE UNEASY CASE FOR PROSECUTING NEGLIGENT PARENTS, 100 Nw. U. L. Rev. 807.

If you do not have access to WestlawNext, go to the Find Document by Citation box on and type in: 100 Nw. U. L. Rev. 807 and click GO.

This article is very interesting and includes the following  table:

*825 Table: Hyperthermia Incidents in the Criminal Justice System (1998-2003)

Identity of Defendant Number of Incidents Incidents Prosecuted82 Defendant Convicted Jail Sentence Imposed
Mother 46 26/43 (60.5%) 23/25 (92%) 15/22 (68.2%)
Father 28 11/25 (44%) 10/11 (90.9%) 5/9 (55.5%)
Both Parents 14 6/12 (50%) 5/6 (83.3%) 1/4 (25%)
Other Relative 14 6/10 (60%) 5/6 (83.3%) 1/5 (20%)
Unrelated Party 28 24/27 (88.8%) 20/22 (90.9%) 12/20 (60%)

The conventional wisdom about parental negligence cases supposes that parents are usually not charged with a criminal offense and in the unlikely event they are charged, are rarely convicted.83 This perception clearly is inaccurate, especially with regard to mothers.84

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