Is it against the law in Massachusetts to leave a child alone in a car? The only specific restriction we have been able to find in Massachusetts relates to day care providers. 606 CMR 7.10(5)(i) says: "A child must never be left unattended in a vehicle."
In Commonwealth v. Nebel, 59 Mass. App. Ct. 316, 321 (2003), the court explained that briefly leaving a child alone in a car was not child abandonment under MGL c.119, s.39:
"If this activity [leaving child alone in car], albeit ill-advised, were meant to be criminalized, the Legislature could have written a more extensive child endangerment statute. Compare 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 5/12-21.6 (b) (West 2002) ("There is a rebuttable presumption that a person committed the offense [endangering the life or health of a child] if he or she left a child 6 years of age or younger unattended in a motor vehicle for more than 10 minutes"). That the actions of the defendant were foolish and a lapse of judgment, as DSS observed, is self-evident. To equate abandonment with poor judgment, however, is a leap we are not prepared to take. The defendant left his daughter for an undetermined amount of time, traveling a relatively short distance away. There was no indication that he did not have the intention to return shortly; indeed the evidence was to the contrary. This cannot form the basis for a criminal conviction of abandonment."
Despite the lack of a specific prohibition, authorities still have the discretion to criminally charge caregivers under existing child endangerment laws. More information on this and other child protection issues is available at Mass. Law About Child Abuse and Neglect.