What’s an “Unreasonable Amount of Time” For Children in Carseats?

May 11, 2018 Abuse and Neglect Attorney
Child sleeping in car seat
Michigan law isn’t as clear as you’d think about how long an “unreasonable” amount of time is for a child to be in a car seat.

Have you ever heard that leaving a child alone in a car seat is illegal in Michigan because it endangers the child? Many people believe that, and that’s certainly what CPS workers would have you believe. But in actual fact, that isn’t quite the truth.

What does Michigan law have to say about it?

If you take a moment to read the MIchigan penal code with regards to this specific issue, this is what it says: “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.”

So what exactly does that mean?

Did you notice that? The part where it says that if you’re responsible for a child, you can’t leave them alone in a car for a length of time that “poses an unreasonable risk” to them. In other words, you can’t leave a child alone in a car long enough for their health or welfare to be at risk. And while that may seem like a pretty clear cut explanation, you’ll notice there is no specific period of time mentioned.

So how long is too long for kids in cars?

The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. On a really hot day? That could mean two minutes. On a cooler day, maybe five or ten, depending on the location. Is the neighborhood safe? Maybe a couple of extra minutes would be okay. Does the neighborhood have a high crime rate? Then probably even two minutes is too long. What about if the parent can see the vehicle at all times? Well, that might increase the time a little. Or not, depending on whether or not seeing it means they can react quickly if something happens.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

If you’re pulling into a gas station and want to run in and pay for your gas without dragging all your kids into the store, you need to consider some things first. Is the store busy, so you’ll probably have to wait in line for a long time? Is the area usually safe, so your car is unlikely to be stolen with your children inside it! Will you be able to see your kids through the window of the store, or is your line of sight obscured? And then there’s the age of the children to consider, and the maturity level.

Each scenario will have to be evaluation before you make a decision.

As a parent, you will have to assess each situation before you decide whether or not your children are going to be at risk. Some parents are never comfortable leaving their kids unattended in the car, even just for a minute or two. Other parents think that a few minutes in a safe location is okay. Either way, legally the choice is yours, as long as you’ve considered the potential risks carefully, and are making an informed choice with your children’s best interests at heart.

Know that cops or CPS may be called, despite your best efforts.

The truth is that regardless of how carefully you handle the situation, someone else may disagree with your choice and call the cops. Running into the gas station for two or three minutes, with your car in full view at all times might feel okay to you, but not be okay to someone else. They may decide to call the cops because they think your kids are at risk, and once the cops are involved there’s a really good chance that CPS will be called.

Have you been accused of endangering your children?

If you’re accused of endangering your children because you left them unattended in a car seat for too long, you are going to need a skilled child abuse defense attorney who can properly assess the case. Many parents are penalized by a system that railroads parent’s rights and assumes the worst of every situation. So if you or a loved one have been accused of leaving a child in a car for too long, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. We are here to help!