Is it illegal to warm up your car in the winter in Ohio? Sometimes

WESTLAKE, OH (WOIO) - You woke up this morning and after making coffee your next thought may have been to start your car to let it warm up, hoping it would melt the six inches of snow we got last night.

But did you break the law in doing so?

It depends, according to Captain Guy Turner with the Westlake Police Department.

According to Ohio Revised Code 4511.661 you are breaking the law if you start your car and walk away in some instances:

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.

"This prevents auto theft, and a buildup of CO (carbon monoxide) gas," Turner said.

Whether or not you can be given a ticket for a minor misdemeanor, depends on a couple of issues.

For one: where is your car?

If it's parked on residential property, you are legal although Capt. Turner says that too is a bad idea.

If it's parked on the curb in front of your house, in the grocery store parking lot or at the gas station, and it's running with the keys in it, you are breaking the law.

What about a remote start?

Many newer cars have the wonderful invention of remote start.

Meaning you didn't even have to trudge out into the snow to get your car started.

But is that still breaking the law?

"I say no, because the offense has two elements: stopping the motor and removing the key," Turner said. "You have one (not stopping the motor) , but not the other (you have removed the key). The vehicle can't be moved without the key being inserted into the ignition."

In Westlake they have written four tickets for running cars in the past year according to Turner.

"I have from time to time over 33 years," Turner said, "but I preferred this strategy. I take the keys out of the ignition, then go hide and watch the driver come back and start checking his pockets/her purse. I'd let 'em sweat a little bit, then walk up twirling the key ring on my finger and ask if they were looking for something. Usually I get a sheepish look and an expression of contrition. I'd point out that if I could do this, nothing stopped a thief from taking off with the car."

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