A woman from Orange County accused of leaving a 4-year-old boy in a hot SUV resulting in his tragic death recently faced a judge in open court, according to a Fox35 news report. The boy’s family is overjoyed to finally be getting justice six months after the incident happened outside the little boy’s school. The defendant is the boy’s step-mother and is married to the little boy’s father.
According to news reports, the step-mother drove the little boy and his siblings in an SUV to their school on a hot September day. The step-mother left the boy in the SUV with the windows up, the engine off, and the doors locked. A school employee saw the boy in the vehicle and pulled him out, rushing him to a fire station across the street but he could not be saved. According to the little boy’s autopsy report, his body temperature registered at 108 degrees. The medical examiner listed the death as an accident, but the boy’s biological mother claims neglect. The temperature of the inside of the SUV was 121 degrees.
The step-mother was released on bond and ordered not to be left alone with any children; she is facing child neglect and aggravated manslaughter charges.
The Dangers of Hot Cars
With the weather in the United States becoming more extreme over the past years, the days that are hot are becoming even hotter than before. With the warm weather comes some silent risks, particularly when many make it a habit to leave children or animals in their vehicles while running a quick errand. While many may see this as harmless, as the task will only take a minute, the results can be tragic. In fact, children and pets can die in a hot car in just a few minutes’ time.
Studies show that every 10 days in the United States a child dies due to being left alone in a vehicle. Likewise, PETA notes 58 animals died in 2018 as a result of heat-related deaths including being left in cars. A vehicle’s inside temperature can quickly rise within the first 30 minutes even if the day is not hot. Of note, cracking open car windows or leaving them open does not allow enough air to circulate in the vehicle to keep it cool. There are several reasons why children are especially at risk of death when left in vehicles including that the child is often tightly strapped into the seat making free movement impossible, a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than that of an adult; and it only takes a body temperature of 104 degrees to cause heat stroke and 107 degrees is usually deadly.
To consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer today, call 855-686-6752
Florida law makes it a crime to leave a child unsupervised or unattended in a vehicle for longer than 15 minutes while the vehicle is running, the child is in distress, or the child’s health is in danger.
The punishment for this crime depends upon the facts surrounding the incident and if the child was hurt. Leaving a child unsupervised or unattended for more than 15 minutes can result in a second-degree misdemeanor charge, punishable by a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. Leaving a child unsupervised or unattended while the vehicle’s motor is running, the child appeared to be in distress, or the child’s health was in danger can result in a monetary penalty between $50 and $500. If the child was hurt as a result of being left unsupervised or unattended and he or she suffered bodily harm, permanent disfigurement, or permanent disability, the accused can be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison. If the child dies as a result, charges and penalties are even more severe.
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