Lawmaker pushes for tougher penalties - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Lawmaker pushes for tougher penalties after reports of children left in cars

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Sen. Toni Boucher is pushing for tougher penalties for parents who leave their children alone in vehicles. (WFSB photo) Sen. Toni Boucher is pushing for tougher penalties for parents who leave their children alone in vehicles. (WFSB photo)
Ridgefield police continue to investigate the death of a 15-month-old. (WFSB photo) Ridgefield police continue to investigate the death of a 15-month-old. (WFSB photo)
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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

The death of a baby boy in Ridgefield was the last straw for one lawmaker who says there needs to be tougher penalties for parents who put their children at risk.

Sen. Toni Boucher of Wilton said the reason for the legislation is simple. She said for some reason, instances like leaving children in hot cars has become a common occurrence.

In Connecticut, officials said there have been seven incidents in July alone.

"I don't understand how a parent could not know their child is in the back seat of their car," said Kathy Osowski, a concerned resident.

That was what many in the state were struggling to understand following the death of 15-month-old Benjamin Seitz.

Police in Ridgefield told Eyewitness News that the toddler died Monday after being left alone in his father's car.

Police said the father was supposed to drop the child off at daycare, but instead went to work at a medical arts building on Grove Street.

When he eventually found the baby boy in the car, he drove the child to Danbury Hospital. However, Benjamin was pronounced dead.

"This deep, deep heartbreaking tragedy is like a punch to the gut to almost everyone," Boucher said. "I can't believe it."

Investigators said they were still looking into the incident. They have not said whether anyone will face charges.

Boucher, who also represents Ridgefield, said she was considering legislation that would strengthen the penalties for anyone who leaves a young child alone in a car.

"Sometimes people do the right thing naturally and other times there are rules, regulations, laws that incentive some people," she said. "That's why we have seat belts, speeding limits, and this might be a good time to revisit some legislation we have on the books."

Boucher did not go into specifics, but currently, it's a class A misdemeanor in Connecticut to leave a child under the age of 12 unattended in a car.

"I think it's the height of irresponsibility, and I think they should be prosecuted," said Ray Gawlak of Meriden. "There's no excuse for it."

The legislation would not only target children left alone in vehicles, but it would protect others as well.

Boucher said she'll bring it to the transportation committee, but it will likely have to go through the public and judiciary committees as well.

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