Is it illegal to leave my child alone in the car for a short period of time?

A mother in Florida was arrested last week after a police officer spotted her sleeping child alone in her vehicle. The woman had left the car running and the doors unlocked while she ran a brief errand. Her reasoning did not keep her out of jail. So, what does the law in Illinois say about child safety in automobiles?

A person who leaves a child 6 years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes is in violation of the law. 

Like most laws, the details are very important. Unattended means either: 

  • Not accompanied by a person 14 years of age or older; or

  • If accompanied by a person 14 years of age or older, out of sight of that person.

A violation of this Section is a Class A misdemeanor which means up to one year in jail and up to a $2500 fine. In some cases, it may also lead to involvement of DCFS. A second violation is a Class 3 felony, meaning 2 to 5 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine. A violation that causes the death of the child is a Class 3 felony for which a person, if sentenced to prison, shall be sentenced to a term of 2 years and up to 10 years.

Even under the safest conditions, it is never a good idea to leave children unattended in a car. The minor inconvenience of having a grumpy toddler or a tired baby is surely better than being forced to answer to a judge and DCFS about your parenting choices.