A 47-year-old Santa Fe man was charged Tuesday with leaving an 18-month old child in a vehicle parked outside Walmart. Parking lot video surveillance shows the man left the child alone for about 30 minutes.
Vincent Varela was charged with a misdemeanor count of abandonment of a child. Without the child being injured (he was not), a misdemeanor was the only charge possible.
But according to one state senator, leaving a child in a vehicle unattended should fall under the state statute for child abuse which provides more flexibility for police and prosecutors in charging individuals. Under the child abuse statute, such on offense could be a misdemeanor or a felony.
Here is what Sen. Mary Jane Garcia (D-Doña Ana), who is sponsoring the bill that would amend the child abuse statute to include leaving a child in a car, told The New Mexican about the incident:
“This week’s case of the man who left his child in the car in Santa Fe illustrates precisely why I introduced my bill. Parents are simply not taking this seriously as a form of abuse. Thank goodness the child was not harmed this time, but in certain weather, a car can become a death trap for a powerless infant.” — Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Doña Ana
Here is a story that published Thursday about the incident:
- Man charged misdemeanor for leaving child in car; lawmaker says case illustrates need for tougher penalties
Should Varela be charged with a felony for what he did? Does it affect your opinion knowing this (from Thursday’s story):
Police say someone called emergency dispatchers Jan. 11 from Sam’s Club on Rodeo Road to report a vehicle in the store’s parking lot with an unattended child inside. But a man returned to the car and drove away before police arrived on scene. The car had the same license plate as Varela’s Ford Explorer. No charges were filed in relation to the January incident.