Is it a Crime to Leave Your Child Alone in a Car?

October 6, 2019
  • It is a criminal offence to leave a child alone in a parked vehicle.
  • Typically people who are accused of leaving children alone in a parked vehicles are subject to the criminal charge of abandoning child.
  • Section 218 in the Criminal Code of Canada pertains to Abandoning Child:

Abandoning child

218 Every one who unlawfully abandons or exposes a child who is under the age of ten years, so that its life is or is likely to be endangered or its health is or is likely to be permanently injured,

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or

(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding eighteen months.


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  • Depending on factors, such as the contextual severity of the alleged offence, the Crown will elect to proceed by indictment or summary conviction.
  • An abandoning child conviction carries up to a five-year maximum sentence if the Crown proceeds by indictment.
  • An abandoning child conviction  carries up to an eighteen-month maximum if the Crown elects to proceed summarily.
  • When it comes to leaving children alone in cars, there is little tolerance in the eyes of the law as more and more people have recently been charged with this offence.
  • It is especially likely that if this act is committed in severe  weather conditions that a criminal charge will be laid by the attending police officers.
  • In order for someone to be convicted of this offence the Crown would have to prove that by abandoning the child the accused exposed the child to conditions where he/she was endangered or was likely to have been endangered
  • According to section 218  “children” are defined as being under the age of 10.
  • Ontario parents who are alleged to have left their children unattended are also subject to the province’s Child and Family Services Act.
  • While the accused would not be subject to criminal offence charges under this legislation they would be subject to provincial offences.
  • These provincial  offences are regulatory and a conviction  does not result in a criminal record for the accused.
  • This could  however prompt an investigation by a local Children’s Aid Society but would not warrant criminal charges for the alleged abandonment.
  • This provincial legislation pertains to children 16 years and younger, unless the child is already in the Children's Aid Society system, in which case it pertains to children under 18 years.
  • This legislation dictates that a child is in need of protection when he or she has suffered physical harm as a result of their parent’s “failure to adequately care for, provide for, supervise or protect the child.”
  • Ontario’s child welfare legislation does not explicitly define child abandonment and  it is therefore it is left open to interpretation and context is taken into consideration.
  • If you have been charged with child abandonment or any other criminal offence contact Kostman and Pyzer, Barristers today for advice!
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