ASK A COP — Is it illegal to leave children unattended in a running vehicle?
Published 12:02 am Wednesday, September 20, 2023
Jody from Port Arthur asks: I observed a woman exit her vehicle at the shopping center and leave her three young children in the car. The three children appeared to be between 5 to 10 years of age. The mother was gone approximately 15 to 20 minutes in the store before her return. Knowing me, I had to get out of my vehicle and express to the mother my concern, but she shrugged me off like I was in her business. Should I have called 911? Is this illegal in Texas to leave your children in a running vehicle?
Answer: Leaving children in cars is very dangerous and concerning in Texas, given the high temperatures recently, along with the humidity. Texas is No. 1 in the USA in an area we have absolutely no reason to brag. From 1990 to 2017, there were 120 child vehicular heatstroke fatalities in Texas involving children ages 14 and under. A total of 836 children have died from heatstroke across the country after being left in hot cars over the last 17 years, according to an organization that aims to prevent the numerous ways children are killed by vehicles. You had every reason to be concerned with this violation Under section 22.10 of the Texas Penal Code, “Leaving a Child in a Vehicle.” It is a class C misdemeanor, which means fine only (no jail time can be given as punishment if found guilty in a court of law) to leave a child under the age of 7 in a vehicle for longer than five minutes without the presence in the vehicle of an individual 14 years or older. Time and age means everything when concerning leaving children unattended in vehicles. If you’re not certain and have a genuine concern for the safety of the children, by all means contact your local police agency.
Marcus from Port Arthur asks: Let’s say I’m driving my vehicle and my friend, who’s in the passenger seat, has a cooler type of cup that you can’t see the beverage inside. If we are stopped by the police and the police determine the liquid inside of the cup is alcohol, who would get in trouble? If I’ve told him once, I’ve told him 50 times, I’m not getting in trouble behind him and his drinking. If they were coming to my car with a can or bottle of alcoholic beverage, I would definitely stop that, but because they have poured it in the Yeti-type cup, I’m not to the point where I’m going to ask them what’s in the cup. I told him if we get stopped, I’m not getting in trouble for them. Who would get the ticket or get arrested? Would it be the driver or the passenger that has the open container?
Answer: In the state of Texas, open containers of alcohol are illegal. Whether it’s the passenger or the driver of a motor vehicle, we cannot possess an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. It is still illegal if the seal has been broken. In your case, the driver who, would be you, was not in possession of an open container, but the passenger was. So the passenger would be the one to receive the citation by the police officer. The passenger could not be arrested because the open container law is one of the two laws that you cannot be arrested for in the Transportation Code in state of Texas. So the police officer has to remove the alcoholic beverage from the vehicle and issue a citation.
Linda from Port Arthur Asks: If someone is caught going over 25 miles over the posted speed limit, is this violation an automatic arrest? I’ve been told you will automatically be arrested if you are caught going 25 miles per hour over the posted speed limit in Texas.
Answer: A driver can NOT be arrested for the charge of SPEEDING in Texas no matter what speeds they are accused of driving. I know that sounds weird, but Texas law is Texas law. However, with that said, a driver can be arrested for reckless driving, which is a higher charge than speeding. The Texas Transportation Code defines reckless driving broadly as operating a vehicle with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Reckless driving is a traffic misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $200. Now, here’s the twist, if an officer believes you are reckless for going 25 mph over the speed limit, then “YES,” you can be arrested for reckless driving, not speeding!
Join Me, Officer Rickey Antoine and the CREW, Stephen “Buzzard Boots” Mosley, Lelo “mouth of Hwy 69/73” I Washington and Tejas “Lil Man” Morning Star for Ask A Cop live, on KSAP 96.9 FM The Breeze radio station every Tuesday for at least two hours from 1 to 3 p.m. You can also tune in at ksapthebreeze.org. Call in and ask your question live at 409-982-0247. Feel free to email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 409-983-8673 and leave a voicemail question or mail them to: Ofc. Rickey Antoine, 645 4th Street, Port Arthur, Texas, 77640. If you happen to see me in public, you can always feel comfortable to approach and “Ask A Cop!”