Gov’t: No Charges in Cases of Accidental Forgetting of Children in Vehicles

State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Accidents are just that, and tragic accidents that result in the loss of the life of a child bring with them difficult consequences – depression, family tension and recriminations – that are often worse than anything the law could do to those whose negligence caused a child’s death. Based on that logic, the State Prosecutor’s Office has handed down new directives to prosecutors, under which parents who are guilty of forgetting their children in a vehicle and causing them to die of dehydration will not be prosecuted, unless malice and premeditation was involved.

The new rules issued by the Prosecutor’s Office cover various circumstances in which children are hurt or killed as the result of a parent’s or guardian’s action. In cases where a parent forgets a child, the tendency of prosecutors will be not to bring charges against parents who accidentally forgot their children in a vehicle, on the basis of the idea that those parents were punished enough by the results of their actions, and there was no need to further their suffering.

For children who are hurt or killed in road accidents, however, that rule will not apply; there, the tendency will be to bring charges if a parent’s negligent driving was a factor in the tragedy. Besides the personal tragedy, there is a social aspect to preventing bad drivers from taking to the road, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, and bringing charges against negligent drivers – especially those whose actions cause death, and most especially if that death is of a family member – deserve to be prosecuted.

A third area that the new rules provides instructions in is for children who accidentally drown at home. Each year there are numerous cases in which children, and especially infants, drown in bathtubs. In those cases, prosecutors will withhold a decision on pressing charges pending a police investigation. The decision on prosecuting will take into account a child’s age, swimming skills, the parents’ relationship with a child, how long the child was left alone and other relevant factors.

The new directives were developed by a committee organized by State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, based on instructions from his office to focus on using the government’s resources more effectively, Nitzan’s office said.