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In Florida leaving a child in the Car is Not Illegal

Under Florida law, Section 316.6135, it is not unlawful to leave a child in an automobile. Whether you believe it is prudent or unwise is a personal preference. This blog only addresses the law in Florida and not moral or personal preferences.

The law in Florida regarding “parents” and “caretakers” who leave their child in an automobile is stated as follows: A parent, legal guardian, or any other person responsible for a child, younger than 6 years of age, may not leave the child unattended or unsupervised in a motor vehicle, for a period in excess of 15 minutes. Florida Statute Annotated Section 316.6135. In order for the State Attorney to successfully prosecute someone under this statute, the prosecutor must show the following four (4) factors or elements.

First, the State or Prosecutor must first prove that the person who left the child in the automobile unattended was the parent, legal guardian or the person responsible for the child. The courts have held that a friend shopping with the “caregiver” of a child left in an automobile, cannot be charged with the criminal act of leaving a child unattended or unsupervised in a car, because the friend of the caregiver has no “responsibility” to the child.

Second, the prosecutor must also show that the child was younger than 6 years of age. This must be shown through independent evidence other than statements made by the caregiver, at the scene of the allege crime. Statements made by the caregiver, at the crime scene, of a child 6 years or less, left unattended or unsupervised in an automobile are “corpus delicti” statements; and not admissible to prove the element of the crime as to the child’s age. The prosecutor must show through independent evidence like medical records, school records or a birth certificate the child’s age of 6 years old or less.

Third, the prosecutor must also prove that the caregiver left the child unattended or unsupervised for a period of time that exceeds 15 minutes. The period of time is a very important element, because if it is shown that the period of time the child was left unattended or unsupervised was less than 15 minutes, then no crime can be shown.  Moreover, if the caregiver can see the child in the automobile from a window like at a 7-11, Publix’s Supermarket or location that allows the “caretaker” to witness the child while seated in the vehicle, the child is not considered unattended or unsupervised under the law. Florida Statute 316.6135 only presumes the 15 time limit to begin when the unattended or unsupervised child is not within the sight or senses of the “caregiver.”

Lastly, the prosecutor must show that the act of the caregiver leaving the child, less than 6 years of age, for a period of time that exceed 15 minutes, resulted in the child being caused “great bodily harm,” “permanent disability” or “permanent disfigurement.”  If the child is unharmed by the actions of leaving him or her unattended in the vehicle, imprudent or not, then no crime has occurred under Florida Law.

Remember, it is up to the Assistant State Attorney in Florida to prove all four elements listed above, beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt, before the “caregiver” can be found guilty of leaving a child in an automobile unattended. The caregiver has to prove nothing, as he or she is presumed innocent under the law. We have lived by this principle of innocence for over 200 years in this country and this principle is so important that it is written in the U.S and Florida Constitutions.

So, if you or a loved one has been arrested or is facing an investigation for child neglect, child abuse, leaving a child in an automobile unattended or unsupervised or any other crime or act against a child, then you need to contact West Palm Beach criminal lawyer Andrew D. Stine. Criminal defense attorney Andrew D. Stine has vast knowledge and experience with not only criminal prosecutions involving children, but also DCF cases involving children and how both the criminal and DCF matters are bound together. With experience since 2003 in handling criminal child cases and DCF cases and with over 6,000 cases under his belt, Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Andrew D. Stine will fight for your freedom and the integrity of your family when facing criminal and DCF matters involving children. “Hire Stine or do the Time.”

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