Leaving a Child Unattended in a Hot Vehicle in Florida

September 10, 2022 Criminal Defense

It is no secret that Florida is extremely hot—with a year-round summer, you can almost always guarantee that it’s going to be hot and sunny in the “Sunshine State.”

While there are definite benefits to warm weather year-round, there are inevitably cons as well. One of the biggest issues with Florida’s heat is when it comes to hot vehicles. Specifically, when children are left unattended inside of a vehicle when it’s too hot.

In recent years Florida has had to create new laws to help prevent the death of young children. We will cover the details of the law and its newest addition, along with facts about hot car deaths in the U.S.

Defining the State Statute

Florida Statute Section 316.6135 defines the law against leaving children unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle. The statute states that it is against the law for a parent or guardian of a child younger than 6-years-old to leave the child alone in a car during the following:

  • For a period longer than 15 minutes;
  • For any period of time if the motor vehicle is running and the health of the child appears to be in distress or in danger.

If an individual violates the details of the statute listed above, then it is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. Getting charged with a second-degree misdemeanor can result in up to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

If the individual who was left in the vehicle has great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement, then the charge would be upgraded to a third-degree felony for the parent or guardian. A third-degree felony can result in up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Florida’s Child Safety Alarm Act

In June 2021, Florida signed the Child Safety Alarm Act into law to help prevent hot car deaths. Under section 402.305 of the Florida Statute, the new bill will require child care transportation services to place alarm systems to alert the driver to fully check the vehicle before exiting.

You can read more about the Child Safety Alarm Act in our blog post here.

Facts on Deaths in Hot Cars

Since the 1990s, there have been over 900 deaths Nationwide caused by vehicular heatstroke, or being stuck inside a hot car. That makes the yearly average around 38 deaths. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 53% of deaths from a hot vehicle involve the parent or guardian forgetting that the small child was still inside the car.

When it comes to vehicular heatstroke, children are much more susceptible. Children’s body temperature rises faster than an adult, typically three to five times faster. If the car reaches up to 107 degrees, then a child inside could die within just minutes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 2018 and 2019 had a record number of hot car deaths. The two years had the most reported in 20 years, with over 50 children dying each year from being trapped in a hot vehicle.

NHTSA shared a tweet saying that 23 children have died this year from getting left inside a hot vehicle. Just in August alone, 10 children died from getting overheated inside a car.

The administration stated that 46% of the time, the parent or guardian meant to drop off the child at school or daycare and didn’t realize they were still in the vehicle. In 54% of cases, the children that died were younger than 2-years-old.

In a matter of only 10 minutes, the temperature in a car can rise by 20 degrees. Even if it is only 70 degrees outside, it can get up to 115 degrees inside a parked car. In the state of Florida this is especially dangerous, due to our constant warm climate.

The NHTSA advises parents on these several tips to avoid hot car deaths:

  • Never leave a child unattended inside a vehicle – Even with the windows open or the engines running, it is still dangerous.
  • Check your vehicle before exiting – Make it a habit to view the front and back of your car before locking it and walking away.
  • Stay in touch with the childcare provider – If your child doesn’t show up for school or daycare, arrange with the teacher or childcare provider to call you to double-check why the child is missing from school.
  • Lock your doors and trunk – If you always lock your vehicle you won’t have to worry about a child sneaking in unattended. It is also smart to store the vehicle keys away from the child’s reach.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Getting accused of a crime can be extremely stressful. The best bet to strategize a strong defense for a criminal case is to work with a skilled Tallahassee defense attorney in your area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients all across the state for various charges. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, give us a call today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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