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Is it a Crime to Leave Your Kid in Your Car While You Shop?

Any parent these days will tell you: things aren’t like they used to be.  Many of the things our parents did would get a person arrested these days!  Riding in the front with no car seat, bouncing around in the back of a pickup truck, absolutely no helmets, a general lack of supervision, and playing with guns used to be the norm.  

But these days, things are different for parents.  Let’s say you’re on the way home from picking up the kids, and you want to run into the store to grab something, but then it occurs to you that every time you bring your kid into the store, he turns the place into a combat zone.  As things currently stand, he’s buckled in, secured, and immobilized.  Leaving him there while you quickly run in becomes pretty tempting.  You might want to think twice!

If a child under the age of 6 is left in a motor vehicle, Florida Statutes section 316.6135 makes it a crime to leave the child in the vehicle for more than 15 minutes!  It is a traffic infraction to leave the child in the vehicle for any period of time whatsoever if the motor of the vehicle is running, the health of the child is in danger, or the child appears to be in distress.  And in some circumstances law enforcement can turn the child over to the Department of Children and Families, which can open up a whole new set of problems.  

Fortunately, arrests for this sort of thing in Florida are trending down, but there are still typically between 100-150 people arrested per year for leaving their children in their cars!

It’s a brave new world out there for all parents.  Most people, of course, want the best for their children, and most people think that they can make reasonably intelligent decisions about whether it’s truly going to endanger your child if you run into the store real quick.  But be forewarned that law enforcement might not see things the way you do, and getting arrested or having to fight DCF to get your kid back is certainly a high price to pay.

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