Child or pet locked in car in hot weather ᐅ Penalty

If you leave your child or pet in the car despite the heat, you are not committing a minor offence. You can learn more in this post.

It often happens that small children or pets are left in the car because the driver wants to get something quickly. Although there is no law that specifically forbids it, this is of particular concern if the car heats up while parked.

Heat study in parked cars

Doing so quickly has tragic consequences, not just in the middle of summer. A study published on September 1, 2010 by American scientists Andrew Grundstein, John Dowd and Vernon Meentemeyer from the University of Georgia reveals how hot it gets in a car. As a result, the interior of the car heats up to 41 degrees Celsius within 10 minutes at an outside temperature of 34 degrees Celsius. After half an hour it is 50 degrees Celsius. With an outside temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, for example, it is 40 degrees inside the car after 30 minutes and 31 degrees Celsius after just 10 minutes. Even at an outside temperature of 20 degrees, 36 degrees Celsius is reached after half an hour.

Child left in car in hot weather

Anyone who leaves a child in the car in the heat can be convicted of various criminal offences. Above all, these standards are taken into account:

1. Bodily injury due to negligence according to § 229 StGB

Anyone who leaves their child in the car despite the heat must first of all expect to be punished for negligent bodily harm according to § 229 StGB. First of all, this presupposes that he has suffered physical abuse or damage to his health. In addition, she must be charged with a foreseeable and avoidable breach of duty of care.

The case below makes it clear how quickly this can happen. A mother of two parked in the sunny parking lot of a large shopping center in Ludwigsburg around 2:30 p.m. in early August. Although it was at least 35 degrees Celsius outside, she continued to let her 4-year-old daughter sleep in the back seat of her car and went to a large shopping mall with her 2-year-old son. When the mother had not returned 40 minutes later, passers-by realized the situation and freed the child from the car. This one was completely sweaty, unconscious and therefore unresponsive. The mother only returned almost two hours after she had visited a fast food chain in between. In court she referred to the fact that her 2-year-old son had gone missing in the mall and that she had to look for him first.

The Ludwigsburg District Court sentenced her to four months in prison for negligent bodily harm by final judgment of 14 May 2014 – 7 Ds 20 Js 109868/13. The court justified this by the fact that the consequences for the mother were foreseeable and avoidable. Accordingly, the facts of § 229 StGB exist. The court did not consider the imposition of a fine sufficient. However, she suspended the suspended prison sentence because, in her opinion, the decision served as a sufficient warning and she would live life without a sentence even if she does not serve the sentence.

2. Manslaughter according to § 222 StGB

If the child dies, the punishment for manslaughter according to § 222 StGB can be considered. First of all, this assumes that he died as a result of the heat. There must also be a breach of duty of care. In the above circumstances, this would probably have to be answered in the affirmative if the child had been exposed to the heat for a longer period of time and had died. This could be understood if no passer-by had noticed the child and the mother had found him more than an hour later. According to the study cited, it would be over 60 degrees in the car.

3. Chamber abuse according to § 225 StGB

If you leave children in the car, you may also be held liable for child abuse under Section 225 of the Penal Code. The offense of § 225 Par. 1 StGB is already fulfilled if the child’s health is harmed by malicious neglect of his duty of care. If the child is in danger of dying as a result or suffering serious injury to his health, then according to article 225 paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code, a prison sentence of at least one year is imposed. According to § 38 para. 2 StGB, a prison sentence of up to the end of the previous prison sentence of 15 years is possible.

Animal left in car in hot weather

Leaving a pet in the car when it’s hot can also be a felony or misdemeanor.

1. Criminal offense according to § 17 TierSchG

Under certain circumstances, a punishment according to § 17 No. 2 TierSchG. This presupposes that the handler/owner has caused significant pain or suffering to a dog, as a vertebrate, by cruelty. Or it must have been prolonged or repeated significant pain or suffering. This assumes that the person concerned acted intentionally, which is rarely the case. Negligent action is not a criminal offense here.

2. Administrative offense according to § 18 TierSchG

However, accidentally leaving a dog in the car despite the heat may constitute an administrative offense under Section 18 TierSchG. According to Section 18 (1) No. 1 TierSchG, this can be considered to occur if he causes significant pain, suffering or harm to a vertebrate he keeps or has to care for without a serious reason, at least negligently.

That’s what the Munich district court assumed in a case in which a dog owner left her Rottweiler in his car in mid-September between 11 a.m. and 11.30 am under the hot sun without providing water. The outside temperature was 25 degrees Celsius in the shade and the window was open a crack (maximum 5 cm). When police spotted the dog 20 minutes later and released him, he was panting heavily and foaming at the mouth. He was also oozing pus from his eyes and hyperventilating. The dog’s owner did not return to the car and went to a nearby police station around 4pm.

The district court of Munich considered this to be negligently causing significant suffering within the meaning of Article 18 (1) No. 236 Js 193231/17. The court found that the dog was in a life-threatening condition as a result of dehydration. The dog owner should be aware that this could happen because of the many press reports on this issue.

Depending on the type of circumstances, the court may impose a fine of up to 25,000 euros in the event of a violation of Article 18 (1) No. 1 TierSchG. This follows from § 18 para. 4 TierSchG.

Conclusion: Drivers should not leave children and pets in the car for short periods of time when it is hot. This is especially true if they cannot be released, such as a small child. Otherwise, you should expect serious consequences. This is not only dangerous in summer, but even in an outside temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius. Especially when the sun is shining on the car. Anyone who observes a child or pet alone in the car in the heat should immediately call the police on 110. Otherwise, under certain circumstances, they may be subject to prosecution for failure to render assistance under Article 323c, paragraph 1 of the Criminal Code. Even if the situation turns out to be harmless, there is no reason to fear the consequences of an emergency call.

Author: Harald Büring, Ass. jur. (Editors of Juraforum)

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