Can Children Be Left Unattended in the Car in Florida?
The average temperature in Florida is 70.8 degrees. In the summer sun, temperatures swell to the 90s and beyond. In this type of heat, the inside of a parked car without the engine running can become deadly in a matter of minutes. Tragically, it’s not uncommon to hear stories on the news of children dying in hot cars because their parents neglected to remove them from the vehicle when they got to their destination.
There are times when, as a parent, you are tempted to leave your child in the car because you are just running a “quick errand.” If you have ever done or thought this, it is important to understand the legality of leaving your child in the car and the potential consequences if you choose to do so.
Florida Statute 316.6135 explains that the parent or guardian of a child under the age of six may not leave the child unattended in a motor vehicle:
- For longer than 15 minutes
- For any period of time if the motor vehicle is running
- If the health of the child is compromised
- If the child appears to be in distress
Although the law states that it is not always unlawful to leave your child in a vehicle, it is always best to bring them with you, wherever you are going. In a moment’s notice, circumstances can change, putting your child in great danger that could cause bodily harm or even death. For example, your car could be stolen or your child could climb out of their seat, leave the vehicle, or put the car into drive.
Searching Google, you can find endless cases of parents being arrested for leaving their children in parked cars in Florida. In most situations, the parent is going to the store and decides to leave their child in the car while they quickly run in.
On February 7, 2020 in Fort Myers, FL, a couple left a four-month old baby unattended inside of a parked car while they went into a dollar store. That day, the temperature peaked around 85 degrees, which is an extremely dangerous temperature for a child that small. Witnesses saw the baby in the car and police were called to the rescue. The child was placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Families and the parents were arrested for child neglect.
March 30, 2020, in Gainesville, FL, a mother went into WalMart and left her child in a parked, non-running vehicle for more than 25 minutes. Bystanders saw the child in the car and quickly alerted authorities. The temperature outside the vehicle that day was 85 degrees, but the interior of the vehicle reached 113 degrees. Fortunately, the child was not harmed. The mother, however, was charged with child neglect.
Child neglect charges are serious in the state of Florida. The penalties a person faces for child neglect depend on the circumstances of the case. If the child is unharmed, a parent or guardian can face fines between $50 and $500, and the child will be placed in protective custody. However, if bodily injury befalls the child, penalties are much more severe and can include incarceration, fines up to $5,000, and permanent loss of custody of the child.
If you have been arrested and are facing child neglect charges, you need an attorney who will take the time to get to know your case and who knows how to fight for you. Having the right attorney can help mitigate the charges and reduce the penalties you face.
Don’t let your life be defined by a single mistake. Contact the attorneys at the Umansky Law Firm today. In Central Florida, the Umansky Law Firm is a trusted source of legal representation for adults facing criminal charges such as child neglect. With more than 100 years of collective experience, our team of former prosecutors provides a unique point of view with every case. They are knowledgeable in defense strategies for criminal defense cases and more.
Talk to a real attorney now. Call our office or contact us online to set up your free consultation.