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Ohio's Good Samaritan Law Allows Breaking Into Cars To Save A Child Or Pet

Effective August 29, 2016, Ohio law will grant civil immunity to people who break into cars to rescue children or pets trapped inside. Senate Bill 215 or Ohio’s Good Samaritan Law was passed in an effort to curb the number of children and pets that die from heat stroke after being locked in cars, which can reach dangerous temperatures within minutes of being left in the sun. Each year, around 35 children die in this manner.

How Does Ohio’s Good Samaritan Law Operate?

SB 215’s civil immunity does come with strings attached, and it is only available when the person who breaks into the car can prove that:

  • All the vehicle’s doors were locked
  • He or she had a good faith belief that the child or animal was in imminent danger
  • He or she made a good faith effort to dial 9-1-1
  • Only reasonable force was used
  • He or she remained with the child or animal in a safe place until the authorities or emergency responders arrived at the scene
  • He or she made a good faith effort to leave a notice to the vehicle’s owner explaining what happened.

If activated, the civil immunity will offer protection from a civil lawsuit brought by the owner to recover the costs of repairing the damaged vehicle. Importantly, the law does not give immunity for any harm that could arise from an improper attempt at giving aid to the animal. Only licensed veterinarians and first responders may attempt to give medical care to an animal without the possibility of facing civil liability.

Why Is The Law Necessary?

Even on a mild day, the temperature inside of a vehicle can reach lethal levels within minutes. On a recent day in Dayton, a meteorologist from Storm Center 7 measured a temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit inside a vehicle when it was only 70 degrees outside.

Children are especially vulnerable to heatstroke once temperatures reach 107 degrees, so they can face serious injury or even death after being left in a car for only a few minutes. For example, the inside of a car can reach 110 degrees after being left for ten minutes in 90-degree heat. In that amount of time, a child’s vital functions can begin to shut down.

No one would ever consider exposing their child to such dangerous conditions, but parents can easily become overwhelmed and make mistakes. A dash into the post office to mail a letter might lead to a long wait in line, or a conversation with a friend or neighbor. In that time, tragedy can strike if a child is waiting in the car outside.

Parents should be aware that they could face criminal sanctions under Ohio’s child endangerment laws by negligently leaving a child locked in a car. According to Ohio Code section 2919.22, it’s a misdemeanor of the first degree for a parent or guardian to “create a substantial risk to the health or safety of the child, by violating a duty of care, protection, or support.”

Call An Experienced Columbus Defense Lawyer

At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we have the experience and skills necessary to assist clients facing a wide range of criminal charges. From DUIs and drug charges to assault and child endangerment, we’ve built our reputation on obtaining positive case outcomes through aggressive advocacy. If you’re facing criminal charges, call us at today and we’ll give you a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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