Many pet owners in California take their companions with them as they run errands or travel. Generally, there’s nothing wrong with driving with a pet. However, pet owners can face legal issues if they leave an animal alone in a vehicle.
California Penal Code Section 597.7: Leaving a Pet Unattended in a Vehicle charges can lead to serious legal trouble for pet owners. Find out how PC 597.7 charges are applied in California’s legal system right here with the Simmrin Law Group.
Legally Defining Penal Code Section 597.7
Pet owners may face charges for leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle under PC 597.7. According to this charge, individuals are not legally permitted to confine a pet in a motor vehicle if the pet’s health or well-being will be endangered by:
- Heat or Cold.
- Lack of Ventilation.
- Lack of Water or Food.
- Other Dangerous Circumstances.
Note that PC 597.7 also contains a section that makes legally allowable for other individuals to remove a pet from a vehicle if they believe the animal’s conditions could lead to:
This means that, under PC 597.7, individuals can forcibly enter someone’s vehicle to remove an animal. Individuals who use force to break into another person’s vehicle in this situation should not be charged with vandalism, malicious mischief to a vehicle, or other charges in California.
Going Over the Results of a PC 597.7 Conviction
Pet owners in California can face different penalties for leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle depending upon:
- The Number of Times They’ve Been Convicted.
- Whether or Not Their Animal is Severely Injured.
A first-time PC 597.7 conviction for an event that did not cause the animal serious injuries could lead to fines of up to $100. A first-time conviction after an animal suffers a serious bodily injury could result in:
- Fines of Up to $500.
- Jail Time of Up to Six Months.
Subsequent convictions for leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle can also result in fines of up to $500 and jail time of up to six months. After a first-time conviction, it does not matter if the animal suffers an injury or not in the court system in California.
Comparing PC 597.7 to Animal Abuse Charges
Leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle can be considered an act of cruelty to an animal. Depending upon the severity of the case, prosecutors can sometimes push for harsher charges under California Penal Code Section 597: Animal Cruelty.
A conviction for animal cruelty can lead to steeper penalties, including:
- Fines of Up to $20,000.
- Prison Time of Up to Three Years.
Individuals may also have their pets removed from their care if they are convicted of animal cruelty.
Considering Defenses for Leaving a Pet Unattended in a Vehicle
You do not have to take on PC 597.7 charges in California alone. A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles may be able to help you handle these accusations. Generally, building a defense for PC 597.7 charges involves demonstrating that your animal was not in danger. This could involve showing that:
You Were Not Going to Leave Your Animal Alone for Long
Sometimes, a quick run into a store can take only moments. In many situations, this is not long enough for your pet to be endangered in a vehicle. If you were only going to be gone for a short period, you could be able to prove that you were not putting your pet in danger.
You Ensured Your Pet Had Adequate Ventilation
Leaving an animal in a car with all the windows shut can be dangerous. But if you cracked your windows and the temperature was neither too hot nor too cold, you could be able to avoid a PC 597.7 charge in Los Angeles.
Your Pet Was Not Hungry or Thirsty
You know better than anyone when your pet last ate or drank. If you fed and watered your pet right before going on a car trip, it can be unlikely that the animal needed more to eat or drink right away. This can help you avoid a PC 597.7 conviction.
Speak with a Lawyer about Leaving a Pet Unattended in a Vehicle Charges
Take California Penal Code Section 597.7: Leaving a Pet Unattended in a Vehicle charges seriously by contacting the Simmrin Law Group. Speak with our criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles right now by filling out our online contact form or calling 310-997-4688.
You can review your legal options for handling PC 597.7 charges with a FREE initial case evaluation.