ONTARIO — Police are investigating an incident that happened Monday afternoon in which an infant was allegedly left alone in a vehicle while the guardian went inside a recreational marijuana dispensary.
While anyone under the age of 21 cannot enter a dispensary, there is no law that precludes them from being on the exterior of the property, including the parking lot, according to information sent from Ontario Police Sgt. Victor Grimaldo.
However, there are state and local laws about children being left unattended in vehicles, he said.
“No child should be left unattended in a vehicle without proper supervision for any duration of time,” wrote Grimaldo in an email this morning. “Depending on the investigation, statements etc., the person who has the child under their control or guidance can be charged …”
According to his email, Ontario Police officers were dispatched to Burnt River Farms at about 3:23 p.m. Monday.
It is unclear how employees became aware that there was an infant in the vehicle, but it happened at some point while the man who brought the infant with him was in the dispensary.
“Employees of the business stood with the child until the driver of the vehicle could be found,” Grimaldo wrote.
That person ended up leaving the dispensary before police were dispatched, and officers were unable to find the vehicle in the immediate area.
Charges that a person can face for leaving a child unattended include child neglect in the second degree. According to Oregon Revised Statute, anyone who leaves a child under the age of 10 unattended at any place for a period of time that may endanger their health and welfare is punishable.
In addition, the City of Ontario has an ordinance regarding leaving children in vehicles. A violation of this ordinance is a class A violation. The city’s law states that anyone who has control/guidance of a child age 10 or younger can not “lock or confine, or leave the child unattended, or permit the child to be locked or confined or left unattended in a vehicle for a period of time longer than 15 minutes.
In the case that a police officer or other peace officer comes across such a situation, Ontario allows them to “enter the vehicle and remove the child using such force as is reasonably necessary … in order to remove the child.”
Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe recently said that it’s not just extreme temperatures that are worrisome in situations where children are left in vehicles.
Kidnapping is also a top concern, and the race against time is a critical component in abductions.
“Not only are we less likely to find them, I would like just to share that if a child is abducted that most normally — not every case — they are dead within four hours.”
Just because we live in a small community, does not mean it cannot happen, Wolfe stated.
While some people claim they forgot or didn’t mean to be gone so long, the sheriff said those are poor excuses.
“Ignorance will not justify your actions — you are responsible for that child.”