Photo- Flickr/Jim Champion

Aug 8, 2017 1:50 PM

Police chief weighs in after two different dads arrested for leaving child in car while they shopped

NH1.com

Two days. Two different fathers arrested for leaving their young child in a car while they shopped.

In Rochester, Leo Ellis, 35, left his child in the car for at least 40 minutes Saturday while he shopped at Walmart. The child was crying when police arrived. They were able to enter the car because one of the doors was secured with a bungee cord. Comments on NH1 News Network's Facebook post about the incident were mostly critical of Ellis.

In Wolfeboro the very next day, Jonathan Lopez was arrested after leaving his toddler in a car, with the engine running, as he shopped at Hunter's Shop 'n Save on South Main Street. Two passersby alerted police.

Although New Hampshire does not have specific laws making it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, the State does have more broad, child endangerment laws.

Chapter 639:3 of the New Hampshire Criminal Code discusses Endangering the Welfare of a Child or Incompetent. Section One states, "A person is guilty of endangering the welfare of a child or incompetent if he knowingly endangers the welfare of a child under 18 years of age or of an incompetent person by purposely violating a duty of care, protection or support he owes to such child or incompetent, or by inducing such child or incompetent to engage in conduct that endangers his health or safety."

One could argue leaving a child in a car, knowingly endangers the welfare of a child as well as violates a duty to care.

In the Wolfeboro case, the car was running. Some who responded to the Facebook post, didn't think it was a big deal because the air-conditioning was on.

But leaving a car running, with or without a child inside, violates New Hampshire statute 265:72: "No person driving or in charge of a vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key and effectively setting the brake thereon and, when standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the way, unless such vehicle has been started by remote control car starter."

Many referenced previous generations when it was commonplace for parents to leave their children in the car. An argument Wolfeboro Police Chief Dean Rondeau says has zero merit. "Just because various peoples' parents did something 20 years ago, doesn't make it right. When I was growing up I recall my parents drinking and driving - clearly that was not 'right'. Times have changed. Leaving a toddler in a running car is clearly not the 'right' thing to do."

Currently only 19 states in the US have laws that specifically make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle.

These laws aren't meant to persecute parents, they're meant to protect children.

In Mississippi, back in May a six-year-old boy was killed after the Toyota Camry he was in while his mother went into a grocery store to pick up medication was carjacked. The car was found nine hours later with the boy in the back seat dead from a gunshot wound to the head.

Rondeau says, its about using common sense. "Every situation is different. Let your conscious be your guide - It's called being an adult."

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