No Georgia law prohibits leaving child alone in running car; case of man whose car was stolen with son inside still under investigation

benw@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 5, 2013 

Georgia has no law that specifically prohibits leaving a child unattended in a vehicle, but Columbus police can use other laws on the books.

Columbus Police Sgt. Art Sheldon of the Patrol Service Division said at least two laws could have been broken when 1-year-old Ronald Grey was left unattended by his father, Ronald Tubbs Jr., Tuesday night in an idling 2013 Chrysler 200. A thief sped off from the Shell Station at 3809 St. Marys Road with the boy inside the car. The boy was found unharmed almost three hours later after the car was abandoned.

"At the convenience store, you are not supposed to leave your car running to begin with," Sheldon said. "You are not supposed to leave a child in the car. There was two violations."

Reckless conduct, a misdemeanor, is usually issued for the charge.

"Basically you are putting that child in danger," Sheldon said. "It's up to the judge to make the decision. Sometimes parents just don't know any better."

Anytime the charge is made, it is based on the circumstances. In most cases, people are not jailed for a violation but are given a principal summons to appear in court.

Under Georgia's reckless conduct law, a person causes bodily harm to or endangers the safety of another person by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his act or omission will cause harm or endanger the safety of the other person.

Currently, there are 19 states with laws that specifically make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle.

Two nearby states with laws include Florida and Tennessee, according to the website KidsandCars.org.

It is unlawful for a parent, legal guardian or other responsible person in the state of Florida to leave a child younger than 6 years old unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle for a period in excess of 15 minutes. No child can be left at any time if the motor of the vehicle is running or the health of the child is in danger.

In Tennessee, it is a violation to leave a child younger than 7 years old unattended in a motor vehicle located on public property or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park or any apartment house complex without being supervised by a person who is at least 13 years of age.

Violations in both states are misdemeanors.

Columbus Police Sgt. Mark Richards said police are still looking for the car thief but couldn't state if the father would face a charge for leaving the child unattended.

"That's all up in the air," he said. "That's all based on what we find out in the investigation. I can't give you a solid answer on whether or not he is going to be charged. The investigation is still ongoing."

Richards said he couldn't release any details of the investigation.

"We have some leads," he said.

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