Many states have criminal laws that punish parents and caregivers with fines and even jail time if they leave a child unattended in a car. But while those same individuals can be charged with child cruelty in Georgia, this state does not have any laws specifically pertaining to children left in hot cars.
However, in February 2015 the Georgia Senate did pass a bill that would protect good Samaritans when trying to save a child from a hot car.
But there are precautions that Samaritan must take before breaking into a vehicle.
The bill was proposed by State Senator Greg Kirk who, when introducing his bill, stated that it was the case of Sydney Stanley of Augusta who prompted him to take action. Sydney was only six years old when she was left inside a hot car for so long that she tragically passed away from the heat.
50 other Senators agreed with Kirk that action needed to be taken and the bill was passed. Under the bill, individuals that wish to help cannot face litigation for any damage done to the vehicle. But this does not mean that individuals can simply start breaking into cars, even if they believe a child has been left for too long.
The bill implies that there is a large difference between a child being left for an hour while their parent is shopping, and being left alone for five minutes while that same parent returns their shopping cart. For this reason, individuals are encouraged to wait by the car for a few minutes to ensure that the parent does not seem to be returning.
Individuals must also ensure that all of the car doors are locked before breaking in. There is no reason to cause damage to a vehicle if it is not necessary to do so, so an attempt to open all doors must first be made before any windows are broken.
This is likely to be the first thing authorities will tell an individual who wishes to help a child left in a hot car, and those authorities must first be called. They will then come to the scene and if possible, the concerned citizen must wait for them to arrive unless the child seems to be in imminent danger. Signs of imminent danger include seeing that the child is crying, unconscious, or otherwise in a state of distress.
In Georgia, this law also applies to elderly individuals that have also been left in a hot car for an extended period of time.