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Is It Legal to Leave a Child in the Car in Florida?


Parents have been tempted to leave their children in the car while they run inside for a quick errand. After a few high-profile tragedies involving the deaths of children left in vehicles, states began cracking down on this practice. Nineteen states, including Florida, have laws defining the (il)legality of leaving a child alone in a car.

Every year, dozens of children die after being left in hot cars. Although Florida has some of the hottest summers in the country, it does not currently have a “Good Samaritan Law” to protect passersby from civil liability for breaking car windows to rescue a child or animal from a hot car.

When Is It OK to Leave a Child in a Car in Florida?

Florida state law §316.6135 makes it illegal to leave children unattended in a motor vehicle under certain conditions. If a child is five years old or younger, he may not be left in the car for more than 15 minutes. It is also unlawful to leave the motor of the car running or leave a child unsupervised in any situation where he may be in danger.

The resulting charges from this infraction depend on the circumstances. If no one was harmed, a person may be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. However, if the child suffered an injury from the incident, the responsible person will be charged with a third-degree felony.

Child Neglect Laws in Florida

In some cases, a person may be charged with child neglect for leaving a child unchaperoned in a motor vehicle. A South Florida woman was arrested on child neglect charges earlier this year after leaving her three children (under age 6) in the car while grocery shopping.

Child neglect in Florida includes any action (or lack of action) that denies a child their basic needs and safety. Even if the child is not harmed, a person who neglects a child may be charged with a felony in the third degree. This carries a fine up to $5,000 and up to five years of imprisonment and/or probation. However, if a child does suffer serious bodily harm due to a person’s neglect, the crime becomes a second-degree felony. A conviction on these charges could mean up to fifteen years of jail/probation and a fine of $10,000. Your parental rights may also be terminated in cases of severe or repeated child neglect.

Facing Child Neglect Charges? Call a Fort Lauderdale Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges for leaving a child unattended in a car, there may be defenses available to you. It is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney right away. Deric Zacca, P.A. is a former prosecutor based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He has the knowledge and experience to assist you in your case. Call us today at (954) 379-2238.