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child endangerment

Top 10 Tips for Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The National Safety Council has designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. According to the Council, thousands of people die each year in crashes caused by cell phone use while driving. But phone calls and text messages aren't the only distractions drivers should try to avoid while behind the wheel. Here are 10 tips and facts to keep in mind for Distracted Driving Awareness Month: New teen drivers are distracted more easily. Drivers between the ages of 15 to 20 make up only 6.4 percent of drivers on the road, but account for 11.4 percent of traffic fatalities. So parents, please teach your kids responsible driving habits. Every distracted second counts. Keep in mind that if you're looking down at your cell phone for only 4 seconds while driving, you could be driving the entire length of a football field without looking at the road. Eating while driving can be considered distracting. Although Distracted Driving Awareness Month focuses more on cell phone use, eating while driving can get you pulled over if cops think your snack time is taking your attention off the road. Cell phone records can be used in court. Think you can keep your cell phone use while driving a secret? Think again. Text-message and call records from cell-phone companies can be used in court to prove that you were distracted when the accident occurred. Texting and driving can lead to child endangerment charges. A California mom was arrested when she was caught texting and driving while she had her 1-year-old baby in her lap without any child restraints. Distracted driving can lead to public shaming. A local project in San Francisco called "TWIT Spotting" encourages bystanders to snap pictures of distracted drivers and turn them in. The photos are then posted on the "TWIT Spotting" website or placed on billboards in an effort to publicly shame the driver for his dangerous behavior. Texting crash videos will make you think twice. While they may be hard to watch, texting crash videos serve as a somber reminder of what can happen when you take your attention away from the road, even for a split second. Hands-free cell phone use can still be distracting. Although hands-free cell phone use while driving is generally legal in many places, it can still be a distraction for drivers who get wrapped up in their conversations and forget about the road. Use an app to curb your bad habits. There are smartphone apps out there that automatically shut off your messaging apps and temporarily stop incoming calls and text messages when you're driving. You could land in some deep doo-doo. Finally, there's a lesson to be learned from the driver who was texting while driving a rented convertible when he crashed into a truck hauling liquid manure. So don't be a doo-doo head and steer clear of all distractions while you're driving. Although Distracted Driving Awareness Month only lasts until the end of April, you should hang up all bad habits that lead to distracted driving year-round. To learn more about distracted driving laws and potential consequences, check out FindLaw's article on Distracted Driving. Related Resources: Cell Phone Crash Data (National Safety Council) Texting and Driving: 3 Ways to Prove It (FindLaw's Blotter) Texting a Driver May Make You Liable: N.J. Court (FindLaw's Injured) Driver's Google Glass Ticket Dismissed; Judge Sees No Proof (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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Baby Left in Car for 5 Hours as Mom Drank: Cops

A Pennsylvania woman was arrested after she allegedly left her 2-month-old baby in a cold car for five hours to go drink at a pub. Police were summoned to a pub in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania, after witnesses spotted an unattended infant in a minivan. The 2-month-old girl was only wearing a onesie and covered in a light blanket; the outdoor temperature was about 39 degrees at the time, according to The Express-Times. The infant's mother, Lisa Altif, 32, was arrested for endangering the welfare of a child. Child Endangerment Alleged Reports of children left in a vehicle in extreme weather conditions are far too common. For example, in the scorching summer heat, parents have left their babies in a hot vehicle to go gamble or take care of personal matters. For Altif and other parents leaving their children alone in cold cars, it could potentially lead to hypothermia. In Pennsylvania, people who leave their children unattended in vehicles for a long period of time can be charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Any caregiver who "knowingly" endangers the welfare of a child by violating a duty of care, protection, or support, can potentially be convicted under the statute. According to police reports, Altif had been inside the bar drinking for at least five hours while her infant daughter was inside the cold car. The only time Altif left the bar was to smoke cigarettes on the patio, so it's unclear whether she checked on her baby, The Express-Times reports. Possible Punishment Child endangerment is a first-degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania. So if the mom is convicted, she could face up to five years in prison. However, if there's a pattern of child endangerment, the charge can potentially be elevated to a third-degree felony. While Altif didn't get behind the wheel after she was drinking, police reports indicate that she had a BAC of 0.126 percent at the time of her arrest. If she'd driven drunk with a minor in the car, she could also have faced a felony DUI, which has stuffer penalties and more lasting consequences than a misdemeanor charge. In addition to child endangerment, Altif was also arrested for driving with a suspended license and driving an unregistered vehicle, according to The Express-Times. Her baby is now in state custody as authorities attempt to locate the child's father. Related Resources: Police: Mom Left Baby In Van For 5 Hours While She Drank In Bar (Philadelphia's KYW-TV) Leaving Kids in a Cold Car Can Get You Arrested (FindLaw's Blotter) Don't Leave Kids Alone in Cars, NHTSA Reminds Parents (FindLaw's Injured) Mom Guilty of Murder After Son Dies in Hot Car (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Toddler Heroin Case Lands N.J. Dad in Jail

Police arrested the father of a toddler after daycare providers discovered 48 packets of heroin in his 2-year-old son's jacket. Phillip Young, 27, of New Jersey, has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child. What's in store for him as his case proceeds? Endangering Welfare of a Child In New Jersey, a parent can face child endangerment charges for causing harm to a child in a manner that, in turn, causes the child to be abused or neglected. There are several degrees to the charge. It can encompass behavior spanning from leaving children in cold cars to more willful and extreme actions such as emotionally and physically torturing children. To be convicted, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the parent knew such conduct would make the child abused or neglected. In this case, the father likely knew he was harming his child if he did in fact place heroin in his son's pocket. Considering the child is only 2 years old, there was a very real danger of him ingesting the narcotic. Fortunately, there was no indication the toddler was aware the drugs were in his pocket, New York Daily News reports. Although the child was unscathed, it's pretty safe to say that the father's alleged actions would fit within the state's broad definition of child endangerment. Such charges may also trigger a child welfare investigation. Thus far, it's unclear whether that's happening in this case. Bail Set at $85K Young is being held on $85,000 bail, the Daily News reports. Bail is a process through which an arrested criminal suspect pays a set amount of money to obtain release from police custody, usually after booking. To post bail, Young or someone on his behalf, called a surety, must make the payment to the court. The court will then issue a document or a court order explaining the conditions of his release. If Young fails to show up to court after posting bail, he could face a fine, imprisonment, or both. It would be tacked on consecutively to any other criminal sentence. Related Resources: Toddler: Heroin stuffed in boy's jacket (Reuters) Another Tanning Mom Charged With Child Endangerment (FindLaw's Blotter) Dad Left Baby in Car to Go Gambling (FindLaw's Blotter) 'Hot Sauce Mom' Convicted of Child Abuse in AK (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Leaving Kids in a Cold Car Can Get You Arrested

A New York father was arrested this week for leaving his children in a cold car -- a legal lesson that other parents won't want to learn the hard way this winter. It was around 7 degrees below freezing when police found Luis Fajardo's two children parked inside a vehicle outside a shopping center on Long Island. Fajardo, 32, was arrested when he returned to the car. How is it that parents like Fajardo get arrested for leaving kids in a cold car? Some States Prohibit Leaving Children Unattended According to WCBS-TV, witnesses say Fajardo's children were left unattended in his 1999 Mazda sedan for at least 15 minutes before police arrived on the scene. It doesn't seem like much time at all for children to be left unsupervised, but there are more than a dozen states where doing so is its own crime. KidsAndCars.org, an advocacy group focused on non-traffic car risks for children, cites 19 states which specifically criminalize leaving children unattended in a car. So had Fajardo left his children alone in a cold car in California, he could potentially be facing a separate $100 fine and/or community education class on the risks of leaving children unattended. In Michigan, a state slightly more prone to cold temperatures, a parent like Fajardo could face jail time for leaving kids unattended in a vehicle -- even if his or her children were unharmed. Other Charges Are Possible New York is not one of the 19 states with "child-in-car" laws, but Fajardo is still facing criminal charges of child endangerment. He's due back in court next month, WCBS-TV reports. Leaving your young children alone in a freezing car -- even if only to run a few errands -- may leave them at risk for hypothermia, which would likely qualify as child endangerment. Endangering the welfare of a child by putting them in a potentially risky situation is a misdemeanor in New York. In most states, it can lead to jail time if you're convicted. And though it didn't happen in this case, if a child in your care dies as a result of being left unattended in a car, you may be charged with manslaughter. Children die every year from being left in cars during lethal summer heat, and the same result can potentially happen when the temperature swings down low. This threat is real for law enforcement -- in hot or cold temperatures -- and parents may face arrest for leaving the kids in a cold car. Related Resources: Police: Dad left baby, small child in car (Newsday) Mom Guilty of Murder After Son Dies in Hot Car (FindLaw's Blotter) Dad, 32, Charged in Toddler's Hot Car Death (FindLaw's Blotter) Dad Left Baby in Car to Go Gambling (FindLaw's Blotter)
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