A mom and dad left their baby alone for at least 45 minutes in a car — engine running and heat on — while they went into a small-town bar in Dakota County one freezing night last week, and now authorities are weighing charges against the couple, according to the sheriff.

The incident occurred outside the Red Diamond Saloon in Randolph, and "while the child was in a comfortable environment," Sheriff Dave Bellows called this "a very bad practice, a dangerous practice."

Bellows said that even though the engine was running, "cars in this weather will stop. It's a common occurrence. Then hypothermia can set in in a very short period of time."

The parents emerged from the saloon and were confronted by sheriff's deputies who were alerted to the situation by others in the bar, Bellows said.

The two claimed they were inside for only a few minutes, the sheriff said, but witnesses said the time the baby was left alone was anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. The baby was placed in the care of relatives, Bellows said.

As for how much trouble the Dakota County parents are in, Bellows said it's up to the county attorney's office to assess the severity of any charges. "There is a wide range," the sheriff said.

Paul Walsh