PHOENIX -- As Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery is in the midst of a campaign to remind people about not leaving kids or pets in vehicles this time of year, he also said there are serious consequences that can follow from it.
"While we think it would not be an issue, it's still something we hear about too frequently," Montgomery said.
So far this year nationwide there have been 21 kids who have died in hot vehicles, and Montgomery noted that not every case is the same and investigators have to look at all the facts before making a decision on charging someone.
"We've had some of those cases recently where we've got to take a very careful look at everything that goes into it," he said.
In general though, Montgomery said people can face felony charges that range from a class six to a class three for leaving kids or pets in cars. That means a possibility of time in jail, but it often does depends on someone's history.
"A class-three offense, the presumptive sentence is three and a half years," he said. "Now it's also a fact that if you don't have a criminal history each one of those convictions could still result in probation."
Convictions can stay on someone's record for years, and Montgomery said that could have adverse effects on someone's ability to get jobs or housing.
Facing charges can also be one of the most traumatic experiences one might face but it pales in comparison Montgomery said, to the possibility of losing a loved one.
"Being arrested in the first place for some folks could be the most serious and tragic event that they've had occur in their lives aside from the underlying incident that gets us to that point," Montgomery said. "Regardless of whether or not you face a realistic risk of prison in the first place, it's something people don't want to have to face period."
Montgomery added that parents should never leave kids or pets in vehicles especially this time of year, even if it's only going to be for a few minutes.