Florida Enacts Child Safety Alarm Act

September 21, 2021 Criminal Defense

What is the Act?

 In June of this year, Florida’s Child Safety Alarm Act was signed into law in the hopes of preventing hot car deaths in vehicles operated by daycare facilities . This act was implemented into Section 402.305 of the Florida Statutes, and requires that by January 1, 2022, vehicles used by child care facilities and large family child care homes to transport children be equipped with a reliable alarm system approved by the Florida Department of Children and Families that will prompt the driver to fully inspect the vehicle for children before exiting. The department will be responsible for not only adopting minimum safety standards for alarm systems but keeping a list of approved alarm manufacturers and alarm systems that meet or exceed those standards. The bill’s effective date is October 1, 2021, leaving ample time for these alarm systems that cost between $200 and $600, to be installed.

Why Was it Implemented?

Unfortunately, there have been numerous stories of children dying from being left in vehicles. In 2017, four-year-old Myles Hill tragically died after being left in a day care van for thirteen hours in Orlando. That year, Myles was the thirty-second child who had died from being left in a hot vehicle in the country, and the fifth in the state of Florida. State Senator Linda Stewart, who has pushed for this bill since October 2017, cited Myle’s case as a prominent reason why she fought so hard for its implementation. According to kidsandcars.com, which tracks and aims to eliminate vehicle-related incidents with children, approximately twenty-two children have died from being left in a hot car in 2021, with the youngest child just five months old and the oldest child eleven years old. Alarmingly, from 1990-2020, Florida had the second highest number of child deaths from vehicular heat stroke. For all of these reasons, this bill was absolutely imperative.

A Recent Case Ends in Aggravated Manslaughter Charge

Just a month after the Act was signed into law, a woman who was hired to take children to a Miami day care facility left a two-year-old in a car for seven hours. She stated she “got distracted” and went into her home. The child unfortunately died in the car, and the woman was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child, a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

Although charges vary in these circumstances, the Kids and Car Safety Database found that from 1990-2020, 52% of child hot car deaths do not result in a conviction, and 31% of child hot car deaths result in a conviction of varying degrees. Many defendants in these situations decide to take a plea deal in order to avoid jail time as well as a strenuous legal battle while they mourn the tragic loss of a child. 

Can I Leave My Child in the Car for a Few Minutes?

According to Section 316.6135 of the Florida Statutes, it is a crime to leave a child younger than six in a car unsupervised or unattended for a period in excess of fifteen minutes, or for any period of time if the motor vehicle is running and the health of the child is in danger or the child appears to be in distress. If a person leaves a child younger than six in a car for longer than fifteen minutes, they commit a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by 60 days imprisonment and a $500 fine. If a person leaves a child younger than six in a car for any period and that child is in danger or appears in distress, they commit a noncriminal traffic infraction punishable by a fine between $50 and $500. If a person violates any of these provisions and doing so results in great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement, they commit a third-degree felony, punishable by 5 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. If a law enforcement officer observes a child unattended or unsupervised in a vehicle in violation of this statute, they may use whatever means reasonably necessary to remove the child from the vehicle. Unless the law enforcement officer can locate the parents, legal guardian, or other individual responsible for the child, the child will be put in custody of the Department of Children and Families.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with the crime of leaving a child alone in a car, it is imperative you contact an experienced and knowledgeable Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience defending Floridians against a wide variety of charges and can ensure that your rights will be protected and upheld. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today to discuss your options during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our team.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

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