Laws

Wondering if you can let your kids walk to the park or wait in the car for a few minutes—legally?

This list should help.

At Free-Range Kids, we believe parents are the best judges of  what their kids are ready for, when. But the sad fact is, some loving and responsible parents have found themselves in legal trouble when a busybody or law enforcement official perceived their actions as unacceptable.

Until the day we see the Free-Range Kids and Parents Bill of Rights become the law of the land—a bill stating kids have the right to spend some time unsupervised, and parents have the right to let them—here’s a guide to state child welfare laws.

You’ll see that 19 states have specific laws about when it is legal to leave a child in a car. Five states have laws that specify what age a child can be home alone, and 10 states have “guidelines.” For states that don’t have these, the child neglect laws are the next most relevant sources of information. You can find those here.

This list is not a legal document and some localities have rules and guidelines even when the state does not. But we hope this at least provides a starting point. And, as you’ll see, there are two lists. Please consult both!

The first one provides pretty much what you need at a glance. The state list below it has a few elaborations. Once in a while, they contradict each other, because different sources apparently provide different info. Both lists were compiled by my fantastic interns at Reason, Paul Best and Michael Greibrok. – L

LIST #1

Alabama

Unattended in Vehicle: Ala. Code § 13A-11-290 Child under the age of 7 cannot be left unattended in a vehicle when in the care of a child care service

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Ala. Code § 26-14-1(2) Failure to provide adequate supervision of a child

Child Endangerment: Ala. Code § 13A-13-6 Failure to exercise reasonable diligence with a child under the age of 18

 

Alaska

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Alaska Stat. § 47.17.290 Failure to provide necessary care

Child Endangerment: Alaska Stat. § 11.51.100 Intentionally deserts a child under 16 in circumstances that create a substantial risk, or fails to provide adequate food or drink causing protracted impairment of the child’s health

 

Arizona

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: Does not designate an age but reminds parents that the CPS will investigate reports of neglect which include failure to provide supervision

Child Neglect: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 8-201 Failure to provide a child under 18 with supervision which creates an unreasonable risk of harm

Child Endangerment: Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3619 Knowingly allow a child under 16 to have their life endangered

 

Arkansas

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Ark. Code Ann. § 12-18-103 Failure to provide appropriate supervision resulting in the child being left alone at an inappropriate age or in inappropriate circumstances

Child Endangerment: Ark. Code Ann. § 5-27-205 Engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious injury or deserting a minor under 10 that creates a substantial risk of serious injury

 

California

Unattended in Vehicle: Cal. Veh. Code §15620 Child under 6 cannot be left without somebody 12 or older when conditions present a significant risk to the child’s health or safety or when the engine is running or keys are in the ignition

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Cal. Welfare And Institutions Code §300 Failure to adequately supervise or protect the child

Child Endangerment: Cal. Penal Code § 273A Willfully permits a child to be placed in a situation where their health is endangered

 

Colorado

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: 12 (Guideline) From Colorado’s DHS: In general, Colorado has accepted the age of 12 as a guideline for when it might be appropriate for a child to be left alone for short periods of time

Child Neglect: Colo. Rev. Stat.  § 19-3-102 The child lacks proper parental care

Child Endangerment: (Abuse) Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-6-401 Permits a child to unreasonably be placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury

 

Connecticut

Unattended in Vehicle: Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-21a Child under the age of 12, for a period of time that presents a substantial risk to the child’s health or safety

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46b-120 Child is denied proper care and protection

Child Endangerment: Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-21 Permitting a child under 16 to be placed in a situation where the life or limb of the child is endangered

 

Delaware

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: 12 (Guideline) From Delaware’s DSCYF: “While there is no law in Delaware regulating an appropriate age for a child to be left home alone, the Division of Family Services will accept for investigation any report of a child under the age of 12 being left alone.”

Child Neglect: Del. Code Ann. Tit. 10 § 901 Failure to provide necessary supervision appropriate for the child

Child Endangerment: Del. Code Ann. tit.11, § 1102 Acting or failing to act in a way that is injurious to the child

 

Florida

Unattended in Vehicle: Fla. Stat. § 316.6135 Child younger than 6 for more than 15 minutes or for any amount of time if the engine is running or the health of the child is in danger

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Fla. Stat. Ann. § 827.03 Failure to provide a child with supervision

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Georgia

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: 8 (Guideline) From Georgia’s DHS Website: Children under 8 years old should never be left alone, even for short periods of time. Children between the ages of 9 and 12, based on level of maturity, can be left home alone for brief periods of time.”

Child Neglect: N/A

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Hawaii

Unattended in Vehicle: Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 291C-121.5 Child under 9 left alone for 5 minutes or longer without someone 12 years or older

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 350-1 Child is not provided with supervision

Child Endangerment: Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 709-904 Endangering a minor’s physical or mental welfare by violating a care of protection owed

 

Idaho

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Idaho Code § 16-1602 Child is without proper parental care or control

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Illinois

Unattended in Vehicle: Child 6 or younger left for 10 or more minutes without somebody 14 years of age or older (However the rebuttable presumption that this statute created was found to be unconstitutional in People v. Jordan, 843 N.E.2d 870 (Ill. 2006)

Home Alone Age: 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 405/2-3 A minor must be 14 years of age or older to be left home alone for an extended period of time

Child Neglect: N/A

Child Endangerment: 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/12C-5 Cause or permit the life or health of a child under 18 to become endangered

 

Indiana

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: IND. CODE ANN. § 35-46-1-4 Places a child in a situation that endangers their life or health, or cruelly confines the child

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Iowa

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Iowa Code § 232.68 Failure to provide adequate care

Child Endangerment: Iowa Code § 726.6 Deprives child of supervision appropriate for the child’s age

 

Kansas

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: 6 (Guideline) From the DCF of Kansas: “Young children from 0-6 years should not be left alone for even short periods of time. Children 6-9 years should be left for only short periods, depending on their level of maturity. . . . Children 10 and above probably can be left for somewhat longer periods, again dependent upon the other factors.

Child Neglect: Kan. Ann. Stat. § 38-2202 Failure to provide adequate supervision of a child

Child Endangerment: Kan. Stat. Ann. § 21-5601. Knowingly and unreasonably permitting a child under 18 to be placed in a situation that may endanger the child’s life, body or health

 

Kentucky

Unattended in Vehicle: Ky. Rev. Stat. § 507.040 (Part of Manslaughter Statute) Child under 8 left in vehicle showing extreme indifference to human life and resulting in death of child

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Ky. Rev. Stat. § 600.020 Failure to provide essential parental care and protection for the child

Child Endangerment: Ky. Rev. Stat. § 530.060 Failure to exercise reasonable diligence

 

Louisiana

Unattended in Vehicle: La. Rev. Stata. Ann. § 295.3 Child under 6 left without someone 10 years or older

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: N/A

Child Endangerment: (Desertion) La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 14:93.2.1 Exposure of a child under 10 to a hazard or danger the child cannot reasonably be expected to protect themselves from

 

Maine

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 22, § 4002 Deprivation of essential needs or lack of protection

Child Endangerment: Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 17-A § 554 Recklessly endangers the welfare of a child under 16 by violating a duty of care or protection

 

Maryland

Unattended in Vehicle: Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 5-801 Child under 8 left alone without a reliable person of at least 13 years old

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law § 3-602.1 Failure to provide necessary assistance and resources for a minor which creates a  substantial risk of harm

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Massachusetts

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Code of Mass. Regs. Tit. 110, § 2.00 Failure to provide minimally adequate supervision

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Michigan

Unattended in Vehicle: Mich. Comp. Laws § 750.135a Child under 6 without someone 13 years or older

Home Alone Age: 11 (Guideline) From Michigan’s DHS: “According to the Child Protection Law, there is no legal age that a child can be left home alone. It is determined on a case-by-case basis, but as a rule of thumb, a child 10 years old and younger is not responsible enough to be left home alone. A child over the age of 10 and under the age of 12 will be evaluated, but the case may not always be assigned for a CPS investigation.”

Child Neglect: N/A

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Minnesota

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.378 Deprives child of supervision appropriate to the child’s age and such deprivation is likely to substantially harm the child

Child Endangerment: Minn. Stat. Ann. § 609.378 Permitting a child to be placed in a situation likely to substantially harm the child

 

Mississippi

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Miss. Code Ann. § 97-5-39 Child under 18 deprived of appropriate supervision for their age

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Missouri

Unattended in Vehicle: Mo. Rev. St. § 568.052.1 Unattended child (10 years or younger) that causes an accident

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: N/A

Child Endangerment: Mo. Rev. Stat. § 568.045 Acts in a manner that creates a substantial risk to the life, body or health of a child younger than 17

 

Montana

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Mont. Code Ann. § 41-3-102 Failure to provide supervision or exposing child to unreasonable risk

Child Endangerment: Mont. Code Ann. § 45-5-622 Knowingly endangers a child under 18 by violating a duty of care, protection or support

 

Nebraska

Unattended in Vehicle: Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 28-710 Child is 6 years old or younger

Home Alone Age: 7 (Guideline)

Child Neglect: Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-710 Child is placed in a situation that endangers their physical or mental health or is cruelly confined

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Nevada

Unattended in Vehicle: Knowingly leave a child 7 years old or younger if conditions are present for substantial risk or the keys are in the ignition and there is no supervision by someone 12 years old or older

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 432B.140 Child is without proper care, control and supervision

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

New Hampshire

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: N.H. Rev. Stat. § 169-C:3 Failure to provide proper parental care or control

Child Endangerment: N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 639:3 Violating a duty of care owed to a child under 18 which endangers the welfare of that child

 

New Jersey

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: N.J. Stat. Ann. § 9:6-8.21 Failure to exercise a minimum degree of care, including in providing child with proper supervision

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

New Mexico

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: 10

Child Neglect: N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-6-1 Child is without proper care or control

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

New York

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law § 371 Failure to exercise a minimum degree of care in providing a child under 18 with proper supervision or guardianship

Child Endangerment: N.Y. PENAL LAW § 260.10 Acts in a way likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child younger than 17

 

North Carolina

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: 8

Child Neglect: N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 7B-101 Failure to provide proper care or supervision

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

North Dakota

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: 9 (Guideline) Children 8 years of age or under should be supervised at all times, with more independence granted as the child ages

Child Neglect: N.D. Cent. Code § 14-09-22.1 Failure to provide proper parental care or supervision

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Ohio

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Ohio Rev. Code. § 2151.03 Lack of adequate parental care

Child Endangerment: Ohio Rev. Code § 2919.22 Creating a substantial to the health or safety of a child by violating a duty of care

 

Oklahoma

Unattended in Vehicle: Okla. Stat. Tit. 47, § 11-1119 Child 6 or younger left in condition that presents health risks or the engine is running or the keys are in the passenger compartment without someone who is 12 years of age or older

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: OKLA. STAT. tit. 10A § 1-1-105 Failure to provide supervision or adequate caretakers

OKLA. STAT. TIT. 21, §852.1 Causing a minor to be in need of supervision

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Oregon

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: 10 (Guideline)

Child Neglect: Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 163.545 Leaving a child under 10 unattended in any place for a period of time that is likely to endanger the child’s health or welfare

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Pennsylvania

Unattended in Vehicle: Pa. Cons. Stat. Tit. 75 § 3701.1 Child under the age of 6 under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Pa. Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 6303 Prolonged or repeated lack of supervision

Child Endangerment: Pa. Cons. Stat. Tit. 18 § 4304 Knowingly endanger the welfare of a child under 18 by violating a duty of care, protection or support

 

Rhode Island

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-9-5 Causing a child under 18 to suffer for want of proper care or oversight

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

South Carolina

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: S.C. Code Ann. § 63-7-20 Failure to provide supervision appropriate to the child’s age and development

Child Endangerment: S.C. Code Ann. § 63-5-70 Place child at unreasonable risk of harm

 

South Dakota

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: S.D. Ann. Laws § 26-8A-2 Refuses to provide proper supervision

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Tennessee

Unattended in Vehicle: Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-803 Child under 7 when the keys are in the vehicle or the conditions present a risk to the child’s health or safety, unless the child is under the supervision of someone who is 13 years of age or older

Home Alone Age: 10 (Guideline) From the Tennessee State Court’s website: “There is no legal age for children to stay at home alone. Parents are advised to use their best judgment, keeping the child’s maturity level and safety issues in mind. Younger children have a greater need for supervision and care than older. Obviously, young children under age 10 should not be left without supervision at any time. In most cases, older teenage children may be left alone for short periods of time.

Child Neglect: Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-15-401 Knowingly neglect a child so as to adversely affect the child’s health and welfare

Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102 Providing unlawful or improper care or supervision

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Texas

Unattended in Vehicle: Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 22.10 Child younger than 7 is left alone for at least 5 minutes without someone at least 14 years of age

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Tex. Fam. Code § 261.001 Placing a child in a situation that a reasonable person would realize requires judgments or actions beyond the child’s ability

Child Endangerment: Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 22.041 Abandoning a child under 15 under circumstances that expose the child to an unreasonable risk of harm

 

Utah

Unattended in Vehicle: UTAH CODE ANN. § 76-10-2202 (2014) Child younger than 9 is left without supervision of someone at least 9 years of age where the conditions present a risk of hyperthermia, hypothermia or dehydration

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-110 Failure to provide care or supervision

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Vermont

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Vt. Stat. Ann. Tit. 13, § 1305 Unnecessarily neglects to properly care for a child

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Virginia

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: 11 (Guideline)

Child Neglect: Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-371.1 Refusal to provide any necessary care for a child under 18

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Washington

Unattended in Vehicle: Wash. Rev. Code § 46.61.685 Child under the age of 16 with the motor running

Home Alone Age: 10 (Guideline)

Child Neglect: N/A

Child Endangerment: Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 9A.42.035 Create an imminent and substantial risk of harm to a child by withholding basic necessities of life

 

West Virginia

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: W.Va. Code Ann. § 61-8D-1 Unreasonable failure to exercise a minimum degree of care to assure the child’s safety

  1. VA. CODE ANN. § 49-1-201 Child’s health is harmed or threatened by a lack of supervision

Child Endangerment:

 

Wisconsin

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Wis. Stat. Ann. § 948.21 The natural and probable consequences of the parent or guardian’s actions is for the child to become neglected

Child Endangerment: N/A

 

Wyoming

Unattended in Vehicle: N/A

Home Alone Age: N/A

Child Neglect: Wyo. Stat. § 14-3-202 Failure to provide adequate care or supervision

Child Endangerment: Wyo. Stat. § 6-4-403 Permit or contribute to the endangering of a child’s life or health by violating a duty of care, protection or support

 

Citations

Criminal Child Neglect/Abandonment: http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/Criminal%20Child%20Neglect%20and%20Abandonment%202014.pdf

Child Endangerment/Failure to Protect: http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/Child%20Endangerment%202014_%208_25_2014_FINAL.PDF

Hyperthermia Statutes: http://www.ndaa.org/pdf/2014_Hyperthermia_8_11_2014.pdf

 

LIST #2

Alabama

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Alaska

Home alone age: unknown

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Arizona

Home alone age: none.

From Arizona’s DCS website: “Arizona’s statutes (laws) do not designate an age when a child can be left alone. A parent is responsible for the decisions he or she makes about their children being left alone.  The law does require however, that the Arizona Department of Economic Security, Child Protective Services (CPS) investigate reports of neglect which include failure to provide supervision that places a child at unreasonable risk of harm. Leaving children alone is included in the category of supervision.”

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Arkansas

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

California

Home alone age: none.

Car law: No child that is six years of age or younger may be left in a car unless they are with a person who is 12 years of age or older, under circumstances “where there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child’s health or safety,” or when the engine is running and/or the keys are in the ignition. The full law is below.

Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Act “Kaitlyn’s Law” California Vehicle Code Sections 15620, 15630, 1563215620.

(a) A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child who is 6 years of age or younger may not leave that child inside a motor vehicle without being subject to the supervision of a person who is 12 years of age or older, under either of the following circumstances: (1) Where there are conditions that present a significant risk to the child’s health or safety. (2) When the vehicle’s engine is running or the vehicle’s keys are in the ignition, or both.

(b) A violation of subdivision (a) is an infraction punishable by a fine of one hundred dollars ($100), except that the court may reduce or waive the fine if the defendant establishes to the satisfaction of the court that he or she is economically disadvantaged and the court, instead, refers the defendant to a community education program that includes education on the dangers of leaving young children unattended in motor vehicles, and provides certification of completion of that program. Upon completion of that program, the defendant shall provide that certification to the court. The court may, at its discretion, require any defendant described in this section to attend an education program on the dangers of leaving young children unattended in motor vehicles.

(c) Nothing in this section shall preclude prosecution under both this section and Section 192 of the Penal Code, or Section 273a of that code, or any other provision of law.

(d) (1) Subdivision (b) and Section 40000.1 do not apply if an unattended child is injured or medical services are rendered on that child because of a violation described in subdivision (a). (2) Nothing in this subdivision precludes prosecution under any other provision of law.

15630. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the fines collected for a violation of this division shall be allocated by the county treasurer, as follows: (a) (1) Seventy percent to the county or city health department where the violation occurred, to b e used for the development and implementation of community education programs on the dangers of leaving young children unattended in motor vehicles. (2) A county or city health department may develop and implement the community education program described in paragraph (1) or may contract for the development and implementation of that program. (3) As the proceeds from fines collected under this division become available, each county or city health department shall prepare and annually update a listing of community education programs that2 provide information on the dangers of leaving young children unattended in motor vehicles and ways to avoid that danger. The county or city health department shall forward the listing to the courts and shall make the listing available to the public, and may distribute it to other agencies or organizations. (b) Fifteen percent to the county or city for the administration of the program, from which will be paid the cost of the county to account for and disburse fine revenues. (c) Fifteen percent to the city, to be deposited in its general fund except that, if the violation occurred in an unincorporated area, this amount shall be deposited in the county’s general fund.

15632. (a) The department shall include information concerning the dangers of leaving children unattended in motor vehicles, including, but not limited to, the effect of solar heat on the temperature of vehicle interiors and the penalties for noncompliance with Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 15620), in the following materials distributed by the department: (1) The California Driver’s Handbook published under subdivision (b) of Section 1656. (2) The driver’s license examination administered under Section 12804.9, by including, on a rotating basis, at least one question in one version of the driver’s license examination that is periodically administered to applicants. (3) Any driver’s education materials certified by the department. (4) Courses and examinations for traffic violator schools. (5) Materials provided to secondary and post‐secondary schools and educational institutions. (6) Any materials provided to community education campaigns undertaken by the department and other state agencies, including, but not limited to, the Department of the California Highway Patrol and the Department of Transportation. (b) The department shall not republish materials before existing supplies are exhausted, but shall arrange for compliance with this section in the next edition or publication of those materials in the normal course of business.

 

Colorado

Home alone age: 12 (guideline)

From Colorado’s DHS: “Colorado in general has accepted the age of 12 years as a guideline for when it might be appropriate for a child to be left alone for short periods of time.”

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Connecticut

Home alone age: none.

From CT’s state website: “Deciding when your child is ready to stay home alone is a difficult decision for parents. There is no set age, either prescribed by law or by child development experts. It comes down to a judgment call on the part of parents.”

Car law: No child under the age of twelve years old may be left in a car for any amount of time that “presents a substantial risk to the child’s health of safety.” If this happens during the hours of 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. then the person that is responsible for the child is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. If this happens during the hours of 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. then the person that is responsible for the child is guilty of a class C felony. The full law is below.

Sec. 53‐21a. Leaving child unsupervised in place of public accommodation or motor vehicle.

(a) Any parent, guardian or person having custody or control, or providing supervision, of any child under the age of twelve years who knowingly leaves such child unsupervised in a place of public accommodation or a motor vehicle for a period of time that presents a substantial risk to the child’s health or safety, shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

(b) Any parent, guardian or person having custody or control, or providing supervision, of any child under the age of twelve years who knowingly leaves such child unsupervised in a place of public accommodation, which holds a permit issued under chapter 545 for the sale of alcoholic liquor for consumption on the premises, for a period of time that presents a substantial risk to the child’s health or safety, shall be guilty of a class D felony.

(c) Any parent, guardian or person having custody or control, or providing supervision, of any child under the age of twelve years who knowingly leaves such child unsupervised in a place of public accommodation or a motor vehicle between the hours of eight o’clock p.m. and six o’clock a.m. for a period of time that presents a substantial risk to the child’s health or safety, shall be guilty of a class C felony.

 

Delaware

Home alone age: 12 (guideline).

From Delaware’s DSCYF website: “While there is no law in Delaware regulating an appropriate age for a child to be left home alone, the Division of Family Services will accept for investigation any report of a child under the age of 12 being left alone. DFS will also accept reports for children age 12 and over if there are any extenuating circumstances (e.g. developmental delays, physical disabilities). It is best for parents and guardians to take in consideration their child’s comfort level, abilities and overall behavior and to talk to them about potential dangers (fire safety, what to do if someone comes to the door, etc.) before making the decision to leave a child home alone.”

No law for leaving child in car.

Florida

Home alone age: none.

Car law: A child younger than six years of age may not be left alone in a car for longer than fifteen minutes or for any amount of time if the car’s engine is running. The full law is below.

316.6135 Leaving children unattended or unsupervised in motor vehicles; penalty; authority of law enforcement officer.

(1) A parent, legal guardian, or other person responsible for a child younger than 6 years of age may not leave such child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle:   (a) For a period in excess of 15 minutes;   (b) For any period of time if the motor of the vehicle is running or the health of the child is in danger.

(2) Any person who violates the provisions of paragraph (1)(a) commits a misdemeanor of the second degree punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(3) Any person who violates the provisions of paragraph (1)(b) is guilty of a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable by a fine not less than $50 and not more than $500.

(4) Any person who violates subsection (1) and in so doing causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement to a child commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. (5) Any law enforcement officer who observes a child left unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle in violation of subsection (1) may use whatever means are reasonably necessary to protect the minor child and to remove the child from the vehicle.

(6) If the child is removed from the immediate area, notification should be placed on the vehicle.

(7) The child shall be remanded to the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services pursuant to chapter 39, unless the law enforcement officer is able to locate the parents or legal guardian or other person responsible for the child

 

Georgia

Home alone age: 8 (guideline).

From Georgia’s DHS website: “Children under 8 years old should never be left alone, even for short periods of time. Children between the ages of 9 and 12, based on level of maturity, can be left home alone for brief periods of time. Children 13 and older can generally be left as babysitters, with the exception of children in foster care. It is not recommended, however, that 13 year olds baby sit infants, small children and children that require special attention due to medical conditions. Children 15 and older can be left home alone overnight, depending on the level of maturity of the child.”

 

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Hawaii

Home alone age: none.

Car law: Any child under the age of nine may not be left in a motor vehicle for five minutes or longer unless he or she is under the supervision of a person twelve years of age or older. The full law is below.

 

[§291C‐121.5]  Leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle.

(a) Notwithstanding chapter 571 or any other law to the contrary, a person violates this section if the person, being the operator or an adult passenger of a motor vehicle, leaves the motor vehicle for five minutes or longer when an unattended child is inside the vehicle, regardless of whether the operator or adult passenger is charged with the care or custody of the child.

(b) Any law enforcement officer, firefighter, or rescue team personnel who observes a child left unattended in a motor vehicle and determines that the unattended child is in physical danger, or poses a danger to others, may use whatever means are reasonably necessary to protect the child or others and remove the child from the motor vehicle.  If the person who left the motor vehicle with an unattended child inside cannot be located within a reasonable time, the law enforcement officer, firefighter, or rescue team personnel, upon removing the child from the motor vehicle, shall immediately report the matter to a police officer, as defined under section [587A‐4], who may assume protective custody of the child without a court order and without the consent of the child’s family.

(c) Law enforcement officers, firefighters, and rescue team personnel shall not be liable in any civil action to any party for any act performed in good faith under this section.

(d) As used in this section: “Child” means a person under the age of nine. “Rescue team personnel” means physicians, basic life support personnel, advanced life support personnel, surgeons, nurses, volunteers, or employees of the owners or operators of a hospital or authorized emergency vehicle who have been trained in basic or advanced life support and have been charged by the owners or operators of the hospital or authorized emergency vehicle with providing life support and resuscitation to persons who are in immediate danger of loss of life in cases of emergency. “Unattended” means leaving a child: (1)  Alone in a motor vehicle; or (2)  In a motor vehicle with a minor under the age of twelve. [L 2008, c 170, §2]

 

Idaho

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Illinois

Home alone age: A minor must be at least fourteen years old to stay home alone. Full law here.

Car law: No child that is six years of age or younger may be left in a car for longer than ten minutes, unless he or she is under the supervision of a person fourteen years of age or older. The full law is below.

(720 ILCS 5/12‐21.6)       Sec. 12‐21.6. Endangering the life or health of a child.

(a) It is unlawful for any person to willfully cause or permit the life or health of a child under the age of 18 to be endangered or to willfully cause or permit a child to be placed in circumstances that endanger the child’s life or health, except that it is not unlawful for a person to relinquish a child in accordance with the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act.

(b) There is a rebuttable presumption that a person committed the offense if he or she left a child 6 years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes.

(c) “Unattended” means either: (i) not accompanied by a person 14 years of age or older; or (ii) if accompanied by a person 14 years of age or older, out of sight of that person.       (d) A violation of this Section is a Class A misdemeanor. A second or subsequent violation of this Section is a Class 3 felony. A violation of this Section that is a proximate cause of the death of the child is a Class 3 felony for which a person, if sentenced to a term of imprisonment, shall be sentenced to a term of not less than 2 years and not more than 10 years.

 

Indiana

Home alone age: none.

 No law for leaving child in car.

 

Iowa

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Kansas

Home alone age: six (guideline).

From the DCF of Kansas: “Young children from 0-6 years should not be left alone for even short periods of time. Children 6-9 years should be left for only short periods, depending on their level of maturity. The factors to follow should also be considered. Children 10 and above probably can be left for somewhat longer periods, again dependent upon the other factors.”

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Kentucky

Home alone age: unknown

No law for leaving child in car. Kentucky does cite in their second degree manslaughter law that it is unacceptable to leave a child that is younger than eight years of age in a car unsupervised in dangerous circumstances.

 

Louisiana

Home alone age: none.

Car law: No child under six years of age can be left in a car alone when the person responsible is more than ten feet away and out of sight of the car, unless a person ten years of age or older is also present in the car. Full law is below.

RS 32: §295.3.  Leaving children unattended and unsupervised in motor vehicles; prohibition; penalties

  1. It is unlawful for any driver or operator to leave a child or children under the age of six years unattended and unsupervised in a motor vehicle.
  2. (1) The term “unattended” as used in this Section means a child who has been left in a motor vehicle when the driver or operator of the vehicle is more than ten feet from the vehicle and unable to continuously observe the child. (2) The term “unsupervised” as used in this Section means an unattended child when a person ten years of age or older is not physically present in the motor vehicle.
  3. (1) A law enforcement officer who observes a child left unattended and unsupervised for a period in excess of ten minutes in violation of the provisions of this Section shall use whatever means are reasonably necessary to protect the child and remove the child from the motor vehicle. (2) If the child is removed from the immediate area by a law enforcement officer pursuant to the provisions of this Section, the law enforcement officer shall place notification on the motor vehicle.  The law enforcement officer shall hold the child until the parent or guardian returns.
  4. Whoever violates this Section shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.  For each second or subsequent offense, the defendant shall be subject to imprisonment, with or without hard labor, of not less than one year nor more than two years and a fine of not less than one thousand dollars nor more than two thousand dollars, or both.
  5. Any law enforcement officer acting in good faith pursuant to the provisions of this Section shall have immunity from any civil liability that otherwise might be incurred or imposed.

 

Maine

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Maryland

Home alone age: 8.

Car law: No child seven years of age or younger may be left in a car while the person responsible is out of sight of the vehicle, unless a “reliable person at least 13 years old” is also in the car. The full law is below.

Family Law §5–801.  Unattended Children

(a) A person who is charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 years may not allow the child to be locked or confined in a dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent and the dwelling, building, enclosure, or motor vehicle is out of the sight of the person charged unless the person charged provides a reliable person at least 13 years old to remain with the child to protect the child.

(b) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or both.

 

Massachusetts

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Michigan

Home alone age: 11 (guideline). From the Michigan’s government website: “According to the Child Protection Law, there is no legal age that a child can be left home alone. It is determined on a case-by-case basis, but as a rule of thumb, a child 10 years old and younger is not responsible enough to be left home alone. A child over the age of 10 and under the age of 12 will be evaluated, but the case may not always be assigned for a CPS investigation.”

Car law: A child under the age of six years old may not be left alone in a car without the supervision of a person 13 years of age or older who is not legally incapacitated. The full law is below.

750.135a Leaving child unattended in vehicle; prohibition; violation; definitions.  Sec. 135a.

(1) A person who is responsible for the care or welfare of a child shall not leave that child unattended in a vehicle for a period of time that poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the child or under circumstances that pose an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the child.

(2) A person who violates this section is guilty of a crime as follows: (a) Except as otherwise provided in subdivisions (b) to (d), the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both. (b) If the violation results in physical harm other than serious physical harm to the child, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both. (c) If the violation results in serious physical harm to the child, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both. (d) If the violation results in the death of the child, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both.

(3) As used in this section: (a) “Child” means an individual less than 6 years of age. (b) “Physical harm” and “serious physical harm” mean those terms as defined in section 136b. (c) “Unattended” means alone or without the supervision of an individual 13 years of age or older who is not legally incapacitated. (d) “Vehicle” means that term as defined in section 79 of the Michigan vehicle code, 1949 PA 300, MCL 257.79.

 

Minnesota

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Mississippi

Home alone age: 12 (guideline). From Mississippi’s DHS: “It depends on each individual child’s maturity.”

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Missouri

Home alone age: none.

Car law: There is no specific law. The only relevant law concerns when a child ten years of age or younger is left unattended in a car and causes a collision, injury, or death, while not under the supervision of a person fourteen years of age or older. The full law can be found here.

 

Montana

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.


Nebraska

Home alone age: none.

Car Law: No child who is six years of age or younger may be left unattended in a car. The full law is below.

Nebraska Revised Statute 28-710

(1) Sections 28‐710 to 28‐727 shall be known and may be cited as the Child Protection Act.

(2) For purposes of the Child Protection Act:

(a) Child abuse or neglect means knowingly, intentionally, or negligently causing or permitting a minor child to be: (i) Placed in a situation that endangers his or her life or physical or mental health; (ii) Cruelly confined or cruelly punished; (iii) Deprived of necessary food, clothing, shelter, or care; (iv) Left unattended in a motor vehicle if such minor child is six years of age or younger; (v) Sexually abused; or (vi) Sexually exploited by allowing, encouraging, or forcing such person to solicit for or engage in prostitution, debauchery, public indecency, or obscene or pornographic photography, films, or depictions;

(b) Department means the Department of Health and Human Services;

(c) Law enforcement agency means the police department or town marshal in incorporated municipalities, the office of the sheriff in unincorporated areas, and the Nebraska State Patrol;

(d) Out‐of‐home child abuse or neglect means child abuse or neglect occurring in day care homes, foster homes, day care centers, group homes, and other child care facilities or institutions; and

(e) Subject of the report of child abuse or neglect means the person or persons identified in the report as responsible for the child abuse or neglect.

 

Nevada

Home alone age: none.

Car law: No child who seven years of age or younger can be left in a car when “the conditions present a significant risk to the health and safety of the child,” or when the keys are in the ignition and/or the car is running, unless the child is being supervised by a person at least twelve years of age. The full law is below.

NRS 202.575  Leaving child unattended in motor vehicle; penalty; exception.

  1. A parent, legal guardian or other person responsible for a child who is 7 years of age or younger shall not knowingly and intentionally leave that child in a motor vehicle if: (a) The conditions present a significant risk to the health and safety of the child; or (b) The engine of the motor vehicle is running or the keys to the vehicle are in the ignition, unless the child is being supervised by and within the sight of a person who is at least 12 years of age.
  2. A person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a misdemeanor. The court may suspend the proceedings against a person who is charged with violating subsection 1 and dismiss the proceedings against the person if the person presents proof to the court, within the time specified by the court, that the person has successfully completed an educational program satisfactory to the court. The educational program must include, without limitation, information concerning the dangers of leaving a child unattended or inadequately attended in a motor vehicle. 3.  A law enforcement officer or other person rendering emergency services who reasonably believes that a violation of this section has occurred may, without incurring civil liability, use any reasonable means necessary to protect the child and to remove the child from the motor vehicle.
  3. No person may be prosecuted under this section if the conduct would give rise to prosecution under any other provision of law.
  4. The provisions of this section do not apply to a person who unintentionally locks a motor vehicle with a child in the vehicle. 6.  As used in this section, “motor vehicle” means every vehicle which is self‐propelled but not operated upon rails.

 

New Hampshire

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

New Jersey

Home alone age: none. 

No law for leaving child in car.

 

New Mexico

Home alone age: 10. 

No law for leaving child in car.

 

New York

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

North Carolina

Home alone age: 8.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

North Dakota

Home alone age: 9 (guideline). From Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota: “Children eight (8) years of age or under should be supervised at all times with a caregiver available. An eight year old should not be left in charge of children; Children who are nine (9) years old should not be left unsupervised for periods greater than two (2) hours during the daytime. This age child should not be unsupervised at night and should not supervise other children; Children who are 10 and 11 years old may be left alone for longer periods of time. However, caution is advised in leaving a child unsupervised during sleeping hours. Children in this age should not be responsible for younger children; Children who are the age of twelve (12) years and older may be permitted to act as babysitters. It is recommended that they successfully complete an approved childcare training course. Caution should be advised on number of children left in care, length of time for care giving responsibility, factors regarding special needs of children left in care and resources available to child providing care; Children under 15 years of age should not be left unattended overnight; Caution should be taken in leaving 15-17 year olds alone overnight. Extended absences of caregivers are not recommended.”

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Ohio

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Oklahoma

Home alone age: none.

Car law: No child that is six years of age or younger may be left in a car when “the conditions … present a risk to the health of safety of the unattended child,” or when the keys are anywhere in the passenger compartment and/or the engine is running, unless the child is under the supervision of a person twelve years of age or older who is not mentally incompetent. The full law is below.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA:

SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law not to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes reads as follows:  This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Unattended Children in Motor Vehicle Safety Act.”

SECTION 2. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 11‐1117 of Title 47, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

  1. As used in the Unattended Children in Motor Vehicle Safety Act: 1. “Person responsible for a child” means a custodial parent or legal guardian of a child, or a person who has been directed or authorized to supervise a child by that child’s custodial parent or legal guardian; 2. “Unattended” means beyond a person’s direct ability to care for or come to the aid of the child; and 3. “Motor vehicle” means the same as defined in Section 1‐134 of Title 47 of the Oklahoma Statutes.
  2. A person responsible for a child who is six (6) years of age or younger shall not leave that child unattended in a motor vehicle if: 1. The conditions, including, but not limited to, extreme weather, inadequate ventilation, or hazardous or malfunctioning components within the vehicle, present a risk to the health or safety of the unattended child; or 2. The engine of the motor vehicle is running or the keys to the motor vehicle are anywhere in the passenger compartment of the vehicle.
  3. It shall not be considered a violation of this section if the child is accompanied in the motor vehicle by a person at least twelve (12) years of age who is not mentally incompetent as defined by Section 1‐ 103 of Title 43A of the Oklahoma Statutes.
  4. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00). Any person convicted of a second or subsequent violation of the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00).
  5. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of this section who has left a child unattended on the premises of any establishment which holds any license for the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises pursuant to Section 521 of Title 37 of the Oklahoma Statutes, and who has consumed any alcoholic beverage during the period of time the child has been unattended, shall be punished by a fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00).
  6. Nothing in this section precludes prosecution under any other provision of law.

 

Oregon

Home alone age: 10.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Pennsylvania

Home alone age: none.

Car law: No child under six years of age may be left in a car alone when the person responsible is out of sight a the car and “under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child.” The full law is below.

3701.1.  Leaving an unattended child in a motor vehicle.

(a)  General rule.‐‐A person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle may not permit a child under six years of age to remain unattended in the vehicle when the motor vehicle is out of the person’s sight and under circumstances which endanger the health, safety or welfare of the child. (a.1)  Applicability.‐‐This section shall apply to the highways and trafficways of this Commonwealth and, for the purposes of this section only, the term “trafficways” shall include, but not be limited to, parking lots.

(b) Penalty.‐‐A person who violates this section commits a summary offense. It is a separate offense for each child left unattended.

 

Rhode Island

Home alone age: unknown.

Law for leaving child in car: unknown.

 

South Carolina

Home alone age: none. 

No law for leaving child in car.

 

South Dakota

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Tennessee

Home alone age: 10 (guideline). From the Tennessee State Court’s website: “There is no legal age for children to stay at home alone. Parents are advised to use their best judgment, keeping the child’s maturity level and safety issues in mind. Younger children have a greater need for supervision and care than older children. Obviously, young children under age 10 should not be left without supervision at any time. In most cases, older teenage children may be left alone for short periods of time.”

Car law: No child six years of age or younger can be left in a car alone when the keys are anywhere in the passenger compartment and/or the engine is running, unless the child is under the supervision of a person who is thirteen years of age or older. The full law is below.

55‐10‐803. Offense of leaving child unattended in motor vehicle — Penalty.

(a) It is an offense for a person responsible for a child younger than seven (7) years of age to knowingly leave that child in a motor vehicle located on public property or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park, or any apartment house complex, or any other premises that is generally frequented by the public at large without being supervised in the motor vehicle by a person who is at least thirteen (13) years of age, if: (1) The conditions present a risk to the child’s health or safety; (2) The engine of the motor vehicle is running; or (3) The keys to the motor vehicle are located anywhere inside the passenger compartment of the vehicle.

(b) A violation of this section is a Class B misdemeanor punishable only by a fine of two hundred dollars ($200) for the first offense.

(c) A second or subsequent violation of this section is a Class B misdemeanor punishable only by a fine of five hundred dollars ($500).

 

Texas

Home alone age: none.

Car law: No child who is six years of age or younger may be left in a car alone for longer than five minutes unless the child is being supervised a person who is fourteen years of age or older. The full law is below.

Codes 22.10 Leaving a Child in a Vehicle

(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the child is: (1) younger than seven years of age; and (2) not attended by and individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older.

(b) An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

** If the child is injured the charge is then child endangerment which is a felony. The penalties are six months to two years in jail and a fine up to $10,000.

 

Utah

Home alone age: none.

Car law: No child who is eight years old or younger may be left in a car alone unless the child is under the supervision of a person that is nine years of age or older. The full law is below.

76‐10‐2202. Leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle.

(1) As used in this section:      (a) “Child” means a person who is younger than nine years old.      (b) “Enclosed compartment” means any enclosed area of a motor vehicle, including the passenger      compartment, regardless of whether a door, window, or hatch is left open.      (c) “Motor vehicle” means an automobile, truck, truck tractor, bus, or any other self‐propelled vehicle.

(2) A person who is responsible for a child is guilty of a class C misdemeanor if:      (a) the person intentionally, recklessly, knowingly, or with criminal negligence leaves the child in an enclosed compartment of a motor vehicle;      (b) the motor vehicle is on:        (i) public property; or        (ii) private property that is open to the general public;      (c) the child is not supervised by a person who is at least nine years old; and      (d) the conditions present a risk to the child of:        (i) hyperthermia;        (ii) hypothermia; or        (iii) dehydration.

(3) This section does not apply if the person’s conduct that constitutes a violation of this section is subject to a greater penalty under another provision of state law.

(4) This section preempts enforcement of a local law or ordinance that makes it an infraction or a criminal offense to engage in the conduct that constitutes a misdemeanor under this section.

(5) Notwithstanding any provision of state law to the contrary, a conviction under this section may not be used by a state or local government entity as grounds for revoking, refusing to grant, or refusing to renew, a license or permit, including a license or permit relating to the provision of day care or child care.

 

Vermont

Home alone age: Unknown.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Virginia

Home alone age: 11 (guideline).

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Washington

Home alone age: 10 (guideline). From Washington’s DSHS website: “The decision to leave a child home alone is a very personal decision that needs to be made based on parents’ feelings and experience with their own child. In general, children under the age of 10 should not be left on their own and babies and younger children should not be left alone even for a few minutes.”

Car law: No child under the age of sixteen can be left left in running car alone. The full law is below.

RCW 46.61.685 Leaving children unattended in standing vehicle with motor running — Penalty.

(1) It is unlawful for any person, while operating or in charge of a vehicle, to park or willfully allow such vehicle to stand upon a public highway or in a public place with its motor running, leaving a minor child or children under the age of sixteen years unattended in the vehicle.

(2) Any person violating this section is guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon a second or subsequent conviction for a violation of this section, the department shall revoke the operator’s license of such person.   [2003 c 53 § 246; 1990 c 250 § 57; 1961 c 151 § 2. Formerly RCW 46.56.230.]

 

Washington, D.C.

Home alone age: unknown. From dc.gov: “DC law says a child is anyone up to age 18 but does not give a specific age at which children can be on their own at home. You need to use your own good judgment. At the same time, we can provide some insight into when leaving a child alone crosses the line into neglect. When CFSA gets a report of a child left alone, we look at each situation individually. We consider several factors that you, too, will want to think about when deciding your child is ready to self-supervise for a time.”

No law for leaving child in car.

 

West Virginia

Home alone age: unknown.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Wisconsin

Home alone age: none.

No law for leaving child in car.

 

Wyoming

Home alone age: unknown.

No law for leaving child in car.

*

And here is another list of Latchkey Laws. Ignore the fear-hyping verbiage and just consult the table.

Leave a Reply

40 Responses to Laws

  1. Lewellyn March 6, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

    Please include the District of Columbia in this list.

  2. George March 7, 2015 at 2:25 am #

    The California summary is not stated quite right. If you leave a kid 6yo or younger in the car, y.You have to either leave someone 12yo or older in the car, or you have to do it safely with no keys in the car.

    I have heard of parents who deliberately leave the keys in the ignition on the theory that it will be obvious that the driver is coming right back. But legally, you are better off taking the keys.

  3. Warren Pacholzuk March 7, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    And now in Georgia people are protected by law and encouraged to bust windows. Cannot see anything going wrong with that.

  4. anonymous March 7, 2015 at 10:53 am #

    I will say that I lived in Ohio and at the the time CPS came to my home claiming my then 14 and 7 year old daughters had been outside playing together unsupervised in our own yard and started an investigation. We were cleared but also warned that they could not be outside on our farm with out adult supervision period.

  5. Amy March 7, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Thank you for this!!! Nice to have some ammo.

  6. Papa Fred March 7, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Good consolidated resource, but…

    The greater problem is that CPS doesn’t need “a law” to restrict or enforce “rules.” .They literally are empowered to just make them up as they see fit.

    These kafka-esque like agencies function autonomously, outside the normal judicial system, avoiding any due process rights of the parents. There is no hearing, no appeal. Do as they order you…or else they will take your kids on the spot.

  7. Sigh March 8, 2015 at 4:52 am #

    Yeah, about that substantial risk of harm? I wonder how that will be interpreted.

  8. CrazyCatLady March 8, 2015 at 9:40 am #

    WA car code needs some clarification. There is a time when children cannot be left alone in parked car. That is when the car is in front of a bar that serves alcohol. I think the assumption is that the parents would be inside the bar, but I am not sure that on a business street with little parking that it would not apply then as well.

  9. David March 8, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    I can tell you from first hand experience that in Virginia if you fail to follow the guidelines you can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

  10. Bess March 8, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    I am also interested in the District of Columbia. My googling has not found a specific law but of course I could be missing it.

  11. Kimberly March 8, 2015 at 12:20 pm #

    Although it is true that in Illinois you can leave a 14 year old home alone, it is very ambiguous about leaving kids younger than 14 home alone – they cannot be left for an “unreasonable period of time”:

    “any minor under the age of 14 years whose parent or other person responsible for the minor’s welfare leaves the minor without supervision for an unreasonable period of time without regard for the mental or physical health, safety, or welfare of that minor”

    And then it goes on to list 15 factors that should be considered to determine how reasonable/unreasonable it is, including length of time, etc. I hate to see websites just list 14 because then people who are less free-range see that and internalize it.

  12. MC March 8, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    Just a correction…It is my understanding that IOWA has a zero tolerance car rule. No child can be left in the car for ANY length of time. I know people who have been mowed down by this law. (goes on record, end of licensure…etc.). And, of course, the main problem is the absolute nature of most of these laws and the gross discrepancies between states. One state…you are fine…another you can get 10 years in prison.

  13. Jodie March 8, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    Could someone please give me a bit of assistance? I’m totally blind and PDF is not blind user friendly. Does anyone have any idea where I can find a text, word document or html copy of the rules for Vermont? Thanks in advance.

  14. Farrar March 8, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

    I also feel DC should have been included. We’re part of this country too, you know. My understanding is that there is no law about age in DC. From the dc.gov website from an FAQ about child and family services:

    “DC law says a child is anyone up to age 18 but does not give a specific age at which children can be on their own at home. You need to use your own good judgment. At the same time, we can provide some insight into when leaving a child alone crosses the line into neglect. When CFSA gets a report of a child left alone, we look at each situation individually.”

    There’s a little more on there – that the older the child, the safer, that a couple of hours is different from overnight, etc. Common sense stuff. I feel like this is a terrific paragraph and exactly what authorities should do – look into cases individually instead of having blanket rules. My experience is that kids are out alone here in DC often. Also that the police aren’t interesting in hassling parents for it. The one time the police were called in a public place about my kids, they made it clear they thought it was fine for two 10 yos to be unattended.

  15. Paul Grimes March 8, 2015 at 11:30 pm #

    Be careful in Washington state with leaving children in cars. Some cities, like Tacoma, have additional laws or municipal codes. In some places, it’s illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle while in an establishment that sells alcohol and, in Tacoma, any child under six can’t be left unattended. You’re probably ok in the rural areas, but once you’re in the areas like Tacoma and Seattle, you will need to pay attention to any additional municipal and county codes.

  16. Sigh March 9, 2015 at 9:24 am #

    So…let’s say that someone proves they’re economically disadvantaged and that’s why they left the underage kid in the car…..how the feck would parenting classes help? The problem was that they didn’t really have a choice, not ignorance. Wouldn’t a slightly better solution to be to help them find benefits/childcare while they attend the interview?

  17. Nicole March 9, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    I am bothered by the number of laws that are worded vaguely, along the lines of “if there is significant risk” or “for extended periods of time.” This is open to interpretations ranging from the chance of getting a paper cut being “too dangerous” to leaving a child alone for a full word day being “not very long.” If a state feels that it must pass a law, make it clear! Don’t pass a law that leaves parents just as confused and vulnerable as they were before.

    It also makes me aware of how difficult we make it in the US to travel or move from state to state and have any idea what the laws are. A family who dutifully follows the law in CA, for example, and routinely leaves their 12 year old in charge of their 6 year old in the car when they run in to the pharmacy, could be arrested if they did the very same thing while on vacation in Illinois. Do their children become less capable once they drive across the Illinois border?

  18. Jason March 9, 2015 at 6:10 pm #

    Laws with “vague” wording are still preferable to codifying every possible condition and situation and/or requiring a life sentence for stealing a slice of pizza because of strictly worded laws.

    Similarly, although laws which differ from state to state may be confusing, I’d rather have at least the illusion of local control. Imagine the federal government trying to cobble all of these state laws into some overreaching law of the land that only 5% of the public likes. I’m surprised there’s no law against “transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of leaving him unattended in a non-running vehicle for longer than 15 minutes”.

    I’ll go out on a limb and say that most of these sound fairly reasonable. That assumes that reasonable people are interpreting them, which is not always the case, unfortunately.

  19. Brad Grierson March 10, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

    Whoo-hoo! My state is awesome!

  20. alicia March 12, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    so, Wisconsin is pretty free range eh? That’s awesome!

  21. Dylan April 19, 2015 at 7:02 am #

    The “definition” of child neglect needs fine tuning. I refer readers to the link above to the child welfare web site. In the definition two terms are wonderfully vague so as to admit any interpretation. Those terms are: “Any recent act…” & “imminent risk”.

    How recent is recent? Two hours? Five days? 2-8 weeks, 183 days? Last 10 years?

    What level of probability constitutes a risk? Every daily action is fraught with a risk of being hit by an asteroid, an imminent one. The level of risk that is considered to trigger child neglect must be quantified. 20% would be a good place to start.

    Qualitative statements in laws are fine, but in laws, whenever possible, any statement that can be quantified must be quantified.

  22. Beth April 19, 2015 at 8:12 am #

    ” it’s illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle while in an establishment that sells alcohol”

    So it’s better to take a child INTO the liquor store while I grab a six-pack? I can’t figure out what they’re afraid of if into an establishment that sells alcohol is better than outside of.

  23. sir_Mycroft April 20, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

    The outline of the law for Illinois referenced above is inaccurate and overly simplified.

  24. andrue June 6, 2015 at 1:10 am #

    Can a child 14yrs or older attend movies in Georgia’s unattended

  25. Debbie June 19, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

    I read online that in February a law was passed in New York making it illegal to leave a child under the age of 8 in a car alone. And if you had more than one child in the car, one of the children must be over the age of 12.

  26. Brooke D. June 22, 2015 at 4:40 pm #

    thank you for posting this i’ve always wanted to stay home while my mom goes to the store since I’m literaly at the age limit I’m 10 i can stay home

  27. Anne July 22, 2015 at 2:43 pm #

    I parked along the sidewalk of a strip mall to drop off a package at a UPS Store. I was never more than 20 ft from the car which had my 4,5 and 7 year old in it. The vehicle was not running and the store and had huge windows they were completely in my line of site. I was in the store for 10 seconds and I noticed a woman looking at my car and talking to someone about it. I step outside the store ask if there was a problem, she began to berate me. I went back inside dropped off my package then returned to my car. She continued to berate me and threatened to call the police. I said “Please do, I’ve done nothing wrong”. She did some more cussing. I gave her a firm middle finger and went on my way. I do not think what I did was morally wrong, was it a legal offence? I live in Washington state.

  28. LaxDad July 23, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    Anne don’t feel bad one instant. Many years ago something similar happened to me on an early Sunday morning running in for a quick cup of coffee, parked directly outside, in complete sight of the car with sleeper in car seat. Total transaction time 30seconds or less. In my opinion the proper thing to do would have been for that person to be helpful and say… “Don’t worry I’ll cover them while you run in… I know how it is.” or just be silent and keep a protective eye on them without looking like a scary stalker. In both scenarios they have done their duty as a good person and not made you feel like crap – it’s a win for everyone. I understand that some people feel conviction to voice their concerns rather than stand by and be silent but they could take a non-confrontational tact and everyone would feel good about it. Now you feel bad, and she’s a jerk. How does that help anyone?

  29. Patricia August 12, 2015 at 5:02 am #

    Funny you say that Warren Pacholzuk; yet, you’d go and tell someone else that if they were caught busting your truck window that you’d basically kill them. You sir are delusional.

  30. GXISLbEBCsNbKgX October 11, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

    wHlUGXvQvRsvkymusY 9137

  31. claire November 1, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

    This is not exactly accurate. We live in Virginia and homeschool. Our daughter will be 9 in a couple of weeks and our jerk of a neighbor called CPS and they are throwing a fit. She is with a sitter now but because I refused to give them the name of the sitter (cause they were already harassing us and our neighbors), they took me to court…and they are STILL harassing us. Their ‘guidelines’ to them ARE LAWS. They have nothing on us, but are making our lives a living hell. They even entered our house when she was at the sitter’s and I was at work, because we left our back door open for our elderly dog to use the bathroom. THEY TOOK HIM and then they played tag so that no one is accountable. We got the dog back but they are insisting that we take him to the vet, (they said they took him to an emergency vet and gave me the street…well that is one of the vets we use and he isn’t even open that day and said they need to call him if they are trying to say that he saw him that day). The dog is 16 and on what I call ‘hospice’ care. He is happy and not suffering, but they are using his frailty to bully us 🙁 My lawyer said that they won’t go by daughter’s abilities (she is big for her age and gifted) that STRICTLY, if she isn’t 12 she can NOT be left alone at home, even with neighbors close by that usually watch her :/ Be careful, or the police will be on your case whether you are doing what is right for your child or not.

  32. claire November 1, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    As someone stated in the comments, CPS does NOT follow laws, they make them up and the ‘rules/guidelines’ are VAGUE for their benefit, not ours. I have an English degree, and work as an interpreter, and they are still trying to get around their own ‘guidelines’ and the judge is no better. He won’t even truly assess the child’s ability–neglect in Virginia is not having ‘adequate (vague) supervision based on the age and level of development (also vague). Primarily they are trying to say that a 10 yro may be ok (for however long THEY deem ok) but that a 15 yro may be immature and should not be left alone.

    Please don’t think that they are protecting anyone.

  33. dan December 9, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    see here for the law in the UK

    https://www.gov.uk/law-on-leaving-your-child-home-alone

  34. Esther January 17, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

    I was charged with child neglect for leaving my children in the car for a few minutes in a well-lit parking lot in Arizona in autumn. Some well-meaning citizen called the cops. My lawyer has said he managed to get diversion for me, but I will actually have my court date in a few days. The prosecutor wanted to slap a misdemeanor on my record, which in AZ stays on for life, but if (when) I complete diversion, the case will be dismissed.

    Since I don’t know how the case will be classed (minor crime, assault, or domestic violence), my diversion could last 3, 6, or 9 months. I won’t know until I’ve gone to court. What’s scary about this is, if I couldn’t secure private counsel, I may have gotten thrown in jail for six months. I don’t understand how this is helpful to children. I’m a single mom and now I’m up to my neck in legal fees which are putting me through a hardship, but the alternative would’ve been being taken away from my children when I am their primary parent. How is this looking out for the children?

    On top of the criminal aspect, I also have the Department of Child Services investigating me. I have hired yet another lawyer to contend with that.

    Yes, there’s no law that says you can’t leave your children in the car in Arizona, but you can’t account for over-zealous cops and busybodies. This cop made up the craziest scenario to justify her decision to charge me with a crime. Be careful. We aren’t allowed to make decisions for our own children anymore.

  35. colleen January 18, 2016 at 6:10 pm #

    So how is it that no kid can be left alone in a car in washington state unless there 16 is this really a law? So if I run into pay for gas lock mu doors and tell my 6year old not to open the door for noone I can be charged? Even with me having the keys and being 40feet away paying for gas?

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  38. Donna White March 26, 2016 at 12:07 am #

    Is it against the law in the state of Texas to leave a 9 year old child alone at night?

  39. Jennifer Heilgeist April 14, 2016 at 1:14 am #

    I live in California,I allowed my 6, 9, 10, 11 year old kids and one 9 year old neighbor child to go to the park with a cell phone to call 911. the park is right up the street from my home and around 730 it was light outside they were to be headed home. This was a group of kids so I felt it was OK for this. Well 8 o’clock came and they had not appeared so I sent my teenager, the police had my kids and walked them home. They demanded to search my home and informed CPs likely will show up at my home. What are the laws if any to protect me?

  40. Miriam May 16, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    Is there a similar list for Canada?