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Cold weather and leaving your vehicle unattended

The bitter cold weather has arrived here in Ohio and it doesn't appear it's going away anytime soon. Before the day begins, you may be inclined to start your car to warm it up and leave it unattended to finish getting ready for work. Many people do this. And they probably don't know they're breaking the law.

Section 4511.661 of the Ohio Revised Code states:

No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key from the ignition, effectively setting the parking brake, and, when the motor vehicle is standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway. 

A violation of this section is a minor misdemeanor, which means a person cited is facing a maximum $150 fine. However, penalties under the statute can be enhanced to include potential jail time. For instance, if the person cited has been convicted of the same offense within one year, then the violation becomes a fourth degree misdemeanor meaning they are facing a maximum $250 fine and 30 days in jail. And if the person has been convicted of the violation more than once within one year the penalty enhances to a third degree misdemeanor. This means the individual would face a maximum $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

What about police officers? Often times even they leave their cruisers running in parking lots unattended. The statute specifically excludes emergency and public safety vehicles from liability.

Even knowing it is a violation of Ohio law, with cold temperatures like this, many will decide that warming up the ice box is worth the risk.

If you or someone you know needs representation on a minor misdemeanor traffic violation, contact Rittgers & Rittgers for a free consultation at 513-932-2115. 

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