RI lawmaker aims to stiffen penalties for leaving child alone in car

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RI Statehouse at night_158248

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Sen. Lou Raptakis introduced a measure on the Senate floor Wednesday aiming to make it an offense to leave young children alone in a parked car.

The proposal comes one day after an East Providence woman was charged with leaving her baby unattended in sub-freezing temperatures at the Wrentham Outlets.

As state law stands now, one would face a stiffer penalty for leaving a dog in the car rather than a child. Raptakis said he hopes to change that by reintroducing legislation that didn’t get passed last year.

If a person leaves a pet in the car in Rhode Island, under animal cruelty laws they could be jailed for a year and fined up to $1,000. But according to Raptakis, there’s currently no fine for doing the same thing to a child, which he said “makes no sense.”

Under Raptakis’ bill, any parent or guardian found guilty of leaving a child under 7 years old unattended would face a fine of up to $1,000 and lose their license for three years.

“The majority of children that are left in vehicles are below the age of 7,” Raptakis said Wednesday. ‘They’re one year old, two years old, three years old, four years old. They can’t physically unlock a vehicle.”

Raptakis said a companion bill will be presented on the House floor as well.

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