Should Citizens be Allowed to Smash Car Windows to Rescue Kids & Pets?

posted by Jim Forsyth - 

Should private citizens be allowed to smash the windows of parked cars and rescue pets or children who are trapped in there and are suffering?  San Antonio City Council is discussing it, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Currently, a police officer or animal control officer is allowed to break a car window in that situation, but, even if it is done with the best of intentions, if a private citizen tries the same thing, criminal charges and a civil lawsuit is a likely result.

A law that would allow citizens to break windows statewide was debate by the Legislature in the 2017 session, but was defeated.

Northwest side Councilman Greg Brockhouse is proposing an update to the city's Good Samaritan Law, which prevents, for example, citizens from being sued or facing charges when they stop to help the victim of a motor vehicle accident.  He says concerned people are the best line of defense for helpless pets and babies locked in hot cars.

"Especially things in parking lots and department stores and things like that," he said.  "People see these things and they want to do something."

Police Chief William McManus told the Council's Governance Committee he would support a law like that, if it was worded in a way that provided specific guidelines on what a civilian can and cannot do.

Brockhouse agreed.

"We're not trying to create a vigilante environment where you have The Punisher running around breaking windows and taking out pets and people."

Council members said they would like to see a law that specified exactly what conditions a citizen would have to encounter before smashing a car window.  

It would also have to include the amount of suitable damage that could be inflicted on the car at the time.

The measure will now be written and will be discussed by a council committee later this year.

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