SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A new California law that went into effect this year will allow people the ability to rescue a child from a hot car without the worry of being found civilly or criminally liable for property damage or trespassing.
Assembly Bill 2717, which went into effect Jan. 1 2021, would exempt people from certain charges if they should break a window out of a car in order to save a child from the heat. The law only applies if that person believes a child who is 6-years-old or younger is at risk of "suffering, disability, or death" due to being in a hot or cold car without proper ventilation.
Previously, a similar law only applied when a person rescues an animal from a car. The new law clarifies that Good Samaritans will not be charged with property damage or trespassing in the case of a child as well.
With an Excessive Heat Warning in place this week in much of Northern California, knowing about this change is important, especially considering that local firefighters are expecting an increase in calls related to heat illness.
It's extremely important to recognize on days where temperatures reach 100 degrees that people in general — but especially older folks, children, and animals— are more at risk of heat illness.
Heat exhaustion versus heatstroke can appear differently based on symptoms, where the more serious heatstroke can lead to death.
According to the official language of AB 2717, "A person may take any reasonable steps that are necessary to remove a child from a motor vehicle if the person holds a reasonable belief that the child’s safety is in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the child."
The bill adds that people must not use more force "than was necessary" to get into the vehicle and remove the child in danger. That person also must stay with the child in a safe location until law enforcement or another emergency responder arrives.
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