DENVER – People would not be subject to any punishment for breaking into a car to rescue an at-risk person or pet if a bill proposed in the Colorado Legislature becomes law.
People who break into cars to rescue kids or animals, most often during the hot summer months when temperatures inside cars can reach more than 150 degrees, are still currently liable to face trespassing, mischief or property charges in the state.
But House Bill 1179, sponsored by Reps. Lori Saine and Joann Ginal, as well as Sens. Lois Court and Vicki Marble, aims to make that a thing of the past.
Their bill, which last week unanimously passed the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee by an 11-0 vote, would give immunity from civil and criminal prosecution to people who meet certain standards when breaking into a car to try and save a life:
- They would have to believe in “good faith” that the person or animal is in “imminent danger” of great bodily harm or death.
- They would have to verify the vehicle is locked.
- They would have to “make a reasonable effort” to find the vehicle’s owner.
- They would have to contact a law enforcement officer or first responder before entering the vehicle;
- They could “use no more force than reasonably necessary to enter the locked vehicle;”
- And would have to stay with the person or animal near the vehicle until a first responder arrives. If the person has to leave the scene, they must leave a note with their contact information, name and location.
Currently, the term “animal” in the bill applies only to dogs and cats, but there was discussion in committee of extending the protections to certain other animals as well.
The law would apply beyond children in hot cars as well; it would extend protections to people breaking into cars to rescue any “at-risk” person no matter their age.
The bill heads to the House floor for further work on Tuesday.