It is child endangerment in Tennessee to knowingly expose a child under age 8 to abuse or neglect resulting in physical injury to the child or to knowingly fail to protect a child from such danger. TCA § 39-15-401. TCA 55-10-803(a) is a specific criminal code related to leaving children in a vehicle; it prohibits a person who is responsible for a child younger than seven years of age from knowingly leaving that child in a motor vehicle located on public property or while on the premises of any shopping center, trailer park, or any apartment house complex, or any other premise that is generally frequented by the public at large, without being supervised in the motor vehicle by a person who is at least thirteen (13) years of age, if:
- The conditions present a risk to the child’s health or safety;
- The engine of the motor vehicle is running; or
- The keys to the motor vehicle are located anywhere inside the passenger compartment of the vehicle.”
While this law is not the most punitive of the “anti-kid-in-car” laws we have reviewed, the fact that it specifically criminalizes leaving any child under 7 and doesn’t limit the “risk” to risk of serious physical harm makes this a punitive law.