PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Five of eight cases where children were left in hot cars since the spring resulted in criminal charges, according to a CBS 5 and 3TV examination of court records.
The cases in which the charges have already been filed involved babies and toddlers who survived. In the three cases where the children died, the investigations remain ongoing, according to police and prosecutors.
The latest case occurred on Tuesday. Police say a man forgot his foster child was in the family van. Police are not identifying the man.
Defense attorneys tell CBS 5 and 3TV that there is a lot of leeway in the decision whether to prosecute these cases.
"If the police decide that they're not going to submit charges, it's very unlikely that that charge will ever reach a prosecutor's office and be charged formally. Even if they do decide they're going to submit charges, there's still a lot of discretion at the prosecutor's office to decide if they're going to decide formal charges or not and what charges they are going to file," said Chris Doran, who is a Phoenix defense attorney.
Doran says factors that affect a charging decision include whether it's been dangerously hot out, so that a reasonable person should know there's a danger in leaving a child in a car, whether the adult has a clean record with regard to taking care of children and whether the adult is a sympathetic defendant, which would make the person more difficult for a jury to convict.
MORE STORIES ABOUT CHILDREN IN HOT CARS