SC Laws Strict on Leaving Children Unattended - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

SC Laws Strict on Leaving Children Unattended

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By Nikki Gaskins

GOOSE CREEK, S.C. (WCIV)—In a two week time span, police arrested three Lowcountry mothers after they say they left their kids alone in the car to go shopping.

For many, it may be an unthinkable act, but what if the minor is 16 or 17-years-old?  Under South Carolina law, anyone who leaves a child under the age of 18 alone in a vehicle could face felony charges and up to ten years in prison.

"I don't think people should leave their kids in the car.  If they do, they should be arrested," stated Pat Hewitt, a mother of two

Pat Hewitt is a mother of two.  She calls the alleged acts careless.

"Anybody could have come up and snatched them, the car could have caught fire, or anything could have happened," stated Hewitt.

Last month, police arrested Paulette Gregory at the Goose Creek Wal-mart.  They say her ten-year-old daughter and four-year-old nephew were left unattended in a van.

Just a few days later, police arrested Rebecca Hutchens for leaving her two kids in the car as she shopped for groceries at The Commissary in Goose Creek.

On March 5th, police also arrested Michelle Mullis.  Investigators say she left her six, four, and three-year-old kids to fend for themselves.

"Would police charge a mother if they left their teenager in the car to talk on the cell phone? Probably not but technically they could," stated David Aylor, a Charleston lawyer and former solicitor for the ninth circuit.

Aylor says when it comes to police investigating children left unattended, it's typically at the officer's discretion.

"They probably wouldn't even look twice at a 16-year-old teen in car unless there was something odd going on," stated Aylor.

"Kids who don't seem to get into anything, variable do at times," stated MUSC pediatrician, Ben Jackson.

Jackson says kids can get into all kinds of trouble—including being kidnapped or even suffer a heat stroke.

"Brain damage can occur from that," stated Jackson.

From a matter of health and safety, it's a law meant to protect those who can not protect themselves.

"It's definitely not worth the risk of going to jail and jeopardizing not only your own future but the future of your children."

All three mothers are currently out of jail on bond.  Rebecca Hutchens is scheduled back in General Sessions Court on April 29th.


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