Ask a Trooper

Posted: Monday, April 16, 2001

Question: I see many people in this town leaving small children unattended in vehicles while they run into a store, post office or perform other errands. As I have raised children, I know this is tempting given our harried schedules, but I believe it is both dangerous and illegal.

Answer: I agree it can be both dangerous and illegal under certain conditions. However, the only law that I'm aware of that might apply to this is Reckless Endangerment, which is A.S. 11.41.250. This law states it is illegal to recklessly engage in conduct that creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person.

"Recklessly" in this case is defined as taking an action when a person is aware of and consciously disregards a risk in a way that is different from what a reasonable person would do.

The example that is given in the statute is shooting into a tent, even if no one is hit. Another scenario that would fit is leaving a baby alone in a hot car with the windows closed.

However, as you can see, it would not be realistic to charge someone with reckless endangerment simply for leaving a child in the car while they run into the store. That certainly does not mean that troopers condone the activity, but it is not clearly illegal.

If you have questions that you would like to ask a trooper, please send them to: Alaska State Troopers, 4060 Heath St., Homer, AK 99603. Or you can e-mail them to The Alaska State Troopers remind you to always wear your seat belt. It's the law.

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