Child Abandonment for Leaving Children Home Alone

Deciding what age is appropriate for children to be left home alone or with an older sibling is difficult for parents to determine, especially when it could be seen as neglect or child abandonment.

Legal age for being home alone

Photo by: Nagesh Jayaraman

Photo by: Nagesh Jayaraman

While Utah doesn’t have a specific age in which children are old enough to be left home alone, it is recommended by the National SAFEKIDS campaign that parents not leave anyone under the age of 12 home alone, and even then only if they are mature. When leaving children home alone, it is important that the children have key essentials first, such as:

• Mature older sibling or babysitter
• Food
• Shelter
• Clothing
• Emergency contact numbers
• Safe, childproofed home
• Rules for staying safe

Leaving children without the things they need to be safe and healthy is looked at as being negligent, and can lead to neglect or child abandonment charges. Unfortunately for one Utah family, the responsible parent failed to provide for the needs of her children prior to her departure and is now facing prison time.

Utah mom leaves children at motel

Photo by: Oakridge Camp and Retreat Center

Photo by: Oakridge Camp and Retreat Center

A southern Utah mom was arrested last week for charges related to child abandonment after she left her three children alone at the motel where the family was living. The oldest child, a 14 year old, is assumed to have been in charge during her absence. During the time that the mother was away, the two younger children, without proper winter attire, left their older sibling at the motel room late at night to go obtain food. Police officers spotted the improperly dressed, hungry children and followed them back to the motel. There the children disclosed that they had no food and didn’t know where their mom was. Officers later located and confronted the mom about her whereabouts, learning she had been out of state and appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Although a 14 year old should have been old enough to watch their two younger siblings for a short period of time, the mom is facing prison for charges related to child abandonment because she left the children without the clothing and nutrition provisions they needed and no way to contact her or another adult.

Child Abuse

Photo by: Ken Mayer

Photo by: Ken Mayer

The phrase “child abandonment” is often used during parental custody battles, when one parent attempts to prove that the other has no interest in the child(ren). Utah law however, also uses this term to define parents who leave their children in poor circumstances. According to Utah code 76-5-109, child abandonment is when “a parent or legal guardian of a child [human being who is under 18 years of age]:
• Intentionally ceases to maintain physical custody of the child;
• Intentionally fails to make reasonable arrangements for the safety, care, and physical custody of the child; and
• Intentionally fails to provide the child with food, shelter, or clothing […]”

Child abandonment is considered child abuse and is punished as such. Utah Code 76-5-109 also states: “A person who commits child abandonment, or encourages or causes another to commit child abandonment, or an enterprise that encourages, commands, or causes another to commit child abandonment, is:
(a) […] guilty of a felony of the third degree; or
(b) guilty of a felony of the second degree, if, as a result of the child abandonment:
(i) the child suffers a serious physical injury; or
(ii) the person or enterprise receives, directly or indirectly, any benefit.”

Any parents who are facing child abandonment charges after leaving their children home unattended are encouraged to seek counsel from a reputable criminal defense attorney.

Weather Related Reckless Driving

Reckless driving brings to mind someone driving quickly and erratically, yet it can often be related to driving at normal speeds in bad weather.

Snow on the road

Photo by: Paul Heaberlin

Photo by: Paul Heaberlin

Early Saturday morning the entire Wasatch Front woke up to snowfall. While the wintry wonderland is beautiful to look at or play in, it can be treacherous for drivers. Once roads were reopened, all along I-15 were signs warning drivers to slow down and to be aware of icy roads. Completely ignoring these warnings, many drivers continued to fly down the interstate at regular freeway speeds. Because of weather related reckless driving, several accidents occurred over the weekend resulting in numerous injuries and one death.

Alter driving for weather

When drivers travel at posted speeds but there is weather present that may limit their visibility or stopping time, they may receive a moving violation for driving too fast for conditions. Depending on the severity of the circumstances, drivers may end up facing charges of reckless driving instead. Utah Code 41-6-528 states: “A person is guilty of reckless driving who operates a vehicle: in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; […]”. Reckless driving is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Reckless driving charges may be subjective

Photo by: Nicholas A. Tonelli

Photo by: Nicholas A. Tonelli

Utah has regular speed limits posted yet nowhere to be found are there separate speed limits for varying degrees of rain, fog, snow, or wind. For this reason, how fast a driver can safely travel is really up to the individual to determine what they are comfortable with. These guidelines that can end with charges for driving too fast for conditions or the related reckless driving are therefore subjective and may be challenged in court. For more information on fighting weather related reckless driving charges, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Utah Highway Laws

Utah has highway laws in place to help prevent accidents and keep the flow of traffic moving freely. Violation of these highway laws not only proves a driver to be non-courteous, but can also result in fines or criminal charges.

Move-over laws

Photo by: versageek

Photo by: versageek

More than 200 law enforcement officers have been struck and killed by passing motorists during traffic stops since 2000. On Sunday evening, a Utah highway patrol officer had a close call as she was nearly hit by a passing car while on a routine traffic stop along I-15. Officer Bambi Baie was pulled over behind a stopped vehicle when she realized an oncoming car was drifting toward her. Luckily for the officer, the approaching distracted driver saw the officer in time and was able to avoid a collision with the patrol car. Unfortunately, the 55 year old Cedar City woman who had been looking at her cell phone, over-corrected when she saw the UHP vehicle and rolled her car several times. She was taken to the hospital in serious condition and will likely face charges for violation of highway laws including operating a hand held device while driving and failure to move over for motorist on the side of the road.

Speeding in Work Zones

UDOT workers put themselves in danger every time they put on that orange safety vest, as their workplace is surrounded on a daily basis by fast moving vehicles. To protect these workers and drivers, Utah has highway laws that not only prohibit speeding, but increase fines for those caught driving too fast in work zones. Speeding in a work zone will result in tickets that are double their normal rate.

Left lane drivers

“Stay right except to pass” is a sign seen often along Utah highways and is not merely a suggestion. Utah Code 41-6a-701 states: “On all roadways of sufficient width, a person operating a vehicle shall operate the vehicle on the right half of the roadway.” The far left lane is reserved for those moving faster than the flow of traffic, including law and emergency vehicles. The exceptions to this law are for those passing other slower moving vehicles, bicycles, mopeds, or if there is an obstruction in the road. Once the passing car has overtaken the other vehicles, they are to move over to the right lane immediately. By keeping to the right, traffic can move freely which will greatly reduce the amount of accidents on the highways.

Express lanes

Photo by: Garrett

Photo by: Garrett

Express lanes are available for motorist to bypass heavy traffic that can result from congestion surrounding on ramps and off ramps. In order to use the express lanes lawfully, drivers must be riding with at least one other human occupant in the car), driving a motorcycle, or have a paid express pass. Additionally, drivers are never to cross a double white line. According to UDOT, “violators of the Express Lanes can be issued a citation with a fine of up to $175.”

Merging

Traffic entering the highway from on ramps must always yield to through traffic. The same rule applies when merging is required due to a lane ending. The merging car is responsible for carrying out this maneuver safely, just as if they were changing lanes. While it is not legally required to let merging traffic enter, it is the decent thing to do as long as it can be done safely.

Be safe and courteous

Photo by: Ken Lund

Photo by: Ken Lund

By following these and other Utah highway laws, motorist can travel throughout the state of Utah safely. While most violations of highway laws end in citations and fines, because of the high rate of speed they can quickly turn into negligent driving charges or even vehicular manslaughter. Obeying highway laws may also keep drivers from becoming victims of road rage. For more information on charges resulting in failure to follow Utah highway laws, contact a criminal defense attorney.