A man and a woman were arrested in Cave Creek on Friday for leaving their children in the family car while their parents could continue to drink at a local restaurant. According to Fox 10 News, the couple had arrived at the restaurant with the children about 8:30 in the evening, then brought them back to their car at about 11 p.m. and returned to the bar to continue to drink. The two children, ages three and four, were found by a deputy alone in the vehicle. After the discovery, the parents emerged from the bar appearing to the officer to be highly intoxicated; breath tests were apparently administered, and indicated that their blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit. They have been charged with child abuse.

The offense of child abuse in Arizona is generally set forth in A.R.S. 13-3623, which provides in part:

“A. Under circumstances likely to produce death or serious physical injury, any person who causes a child or vulnerable adult to suffer physical injury or, having the care or custody of a child or vulnerable adult, who causes or permits the person or health of the child or vulnerable adult to be injured or who causes or permits a child or vulnerable adult to be placed in a situation where the person or health of the child or vulnerable adult is endangered is guilty of an offense as follows:

1. If done intentionally or knowingly, the offense is a class 2 felony and if the victim is under fifteen years of age it is punishable pursuant to section 13-705.

2. If done recklessly, the offense is a class 3 felony.

3. If done with criminal negligence, the offense is a class 4 felony.

B. Under circumstances other than those likely to produce death or serious physical injury to a child or vulnerable adult, any person who causes a child or vulnerable adult to suffer physical injury or abuse or, having the care or custody of a child or vulnerable adult, who causes or permits the person or health of the child or vulnerable adult to be injured or who causes or permits a child or vulnerable adult to be placed in a situation where the person or health of the child or vulnerable adult is endangered is guilty of an offense as follows:

1. If done intentionally or knowingly, the offense is a class 4 felony.

2. If done recklessly, the offense is a class 5 felony.

3. If done with criminal negligence, the offense is a class 6 felony.”

While we haven’t seen the specifics of the child abuse charge, even the less serious of the offenses is a felony. It should be noted that if the charge includes intentionally or knowingly placing a child in circumstances likely to produce serious physical injury, it constitutes a class 2 felony charge, with possible enhanced penalties as a dangerous crime against children. A.R.S. 13-705.

We obviously do not know how this case will turn out, but if proven, the charges represent another example, similar to aggravated DUI (driving under the influence) with a child in the vehicle, where adults choose to place the consumption of liquor above the welfare of their children.

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