Bill for kids left in cars – Panel approves immunity for rescuers [Rep-Am]

February 23, 2015

Article as it appeared in the Republican American

HARTFORD — State lawmakers are advancing potentially life-saving legislation to grant people immunity for entering cars to aid unattended children.

The Committee on Children voted 13-0 Wednesday to report the Good Samaritan bill out of committee. The legislation proposes granting civil and criminal immunity to anyone who enters a vehicle to remove a child from imminent danger.

The Transportation Committee introduced an identical bill, and conducted a hearing on that measure on Feb. 9. The panel has yet to vote on its proposal.

Individual lawmakers have introduced several other related bills.

Sen. Kevin D. Witkos, R-Canton, is proposing to require car seats be equipped with an alarm mechanism that would alert the driver of the vehicle that a child is present once the vehicle is parked. The Transportation Committee conducted a hearing on that bill, also on Feb. 9.

The various bills are responses to a string of deaths of children and arrests of parents last summer across the country, including here in Connecticut.

In July, a 15-month-old boy died in Ridgefield after his father inadvertently left him in his car. Authorities said the child’s father was supposed to drop him off at day care, but instead drove to his workplace with the baby still in the car. Kyle Seitz of Ridgefield is facing a charge of criminally negligent homicide.

The medical examiner found the toddler died of hyperthermia, or extremely high body temperature.

Under Connecticut law, it is a misdemeanor offense to leave a child under age 12 unattended in a motor vehicle or a place of public accommodation. It carries a maximum jail sentence of one year. Individuals can also be charged with risk of injury to a minor, a felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

Earlier this month, Southington police arrested a Waterbury mother and her acquaintance accused of leaving an infant boy inside a car in frigid temperatures while they shopped at an adult store. Police charged Lindsay Hoffmann, 26, and Marquette Riggsbee, 54, of New Haven with risk of injury to a minor and leaving a child unsupervised.

The Committee on Children and the Transportation Committee propose setting identical conditions for granting immunity to people entering cars to aid children. An individual must believe in good faith that it is necessary to enter a vehicle spare a child from harm. People must also call the local police, fire department or ambulance service before entering the vehicle.

Rescuers must leave a note on the windshield that includes their name, address and telephone number, their reasons for entering and the location of the child. They also must remain with the child in a location that is out of the elements and near the vehicle until the emergency help they summoned arrives.

A person can only use the force that is necessary under the circumstances to enter the vehicle.