Is it Illegal to Leave Your Kids in the Car?

Feb 28

Leaving children unattended in a vehicle is a serious matter that should not be taken lightly. According to, there were 29 child deaths in the US in 2023 due to vehicular heat stroke.

In South Bend, Indiana, leaving your kids in the car could amount to child endangerment or child neglect. It is illegal in Indiana to leave a child under the age of 6 unattended in a vehicle for more than half an hour. Doing so is a class A misdemeanor, carrying up to $5,000 in fines and one year of imprisonment.

When you need to run an errand or attend to another matter, you always should bring your children inside with you or make alternative arrangements for their care to avoid tragedy. “I’ll just be a minute” can turn into a lifetime of regret.


Child Neglect Law in Indiana

In Indiana, there are strict laws in place to protect the well-being and safety of minors. As part of these regulations, the Neglect of a Dependent law specifically addresses situations where:

  • The child’s life or health is endangered
  • The child is abandoned or cruelly confined
  • A minor is deprived of rights

According to Indiana Code 35-46-1-4, a person may be charged with neglect of a dependent if they knowingly or intentionally put the life or health of a minor in danger. This includes leaving a minor unattended in a vehicle, which can expose them to various risks such as:

The laws are in place to prevent any harm that may come to a child as a result of negligence on the part of their parents or caregivers. As a result, neglect of a dependent would be considered a level 6 felony. If convicted, individuals may face $10,000 fines and 6 months to 2.5 years imprisonment.


Reckless Supervision

A related statute in Indiana that safeguards children is Section 35-46-1-4.1 of the Indiana Code. According to this law, childcare providers are responsible for prioritizing the safety and well-being of minors in their care.

Leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle without adult supervision may be an act of “reckless supervision.” This is particularly true if the child is left for a period that presents a substantial risk to the child’s health or safety.

Individuals found guilty of reckless supervision commit a class B misdemeanor. If leaving the child alone in the car leads to serious bodily injury, it then becomes a class A misdemeanor. However, the offense elevates to a level 6 felony if the child dies as a result.


Get in Touch with an Indiana Attorney

If your child was injured or died as a result of someone else’s neglect in South Bend, Indiana, you may be able to seek compensation from the person responsible. Contact us today and let Blackburn Romey advise you on your available legal options.

Tom Blackburn

Blackburn Romey founding partner Tom Blackburn graduated with honors receiving a degree from Indiana University at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Initiating his legal career in 1977, he has been active in practicing law and currently serves as a member of the Indiana State Bar Association on the Ethics and Advertising Committees, the American Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, as a board member at the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, and as an appointed member of the Executive Committee for the State of Indiana for the National Trial Lawyers Association.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Tom Blackburn, who has more than 47 years of legal experience, including over 39 years specializing as a personal injury attorney.