July to Bring Stiffer Penalties for Leaving Kids Alone In Vehicle

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The penalty for leaving a child unattended in a vehicle will increase this summer with legislation signed this week by Governor Charlie Crist.

A law that takes effect July 1 makes it a misdemeanor crime, rather than a traffic infraction, to leave a child under 6 years old in a vehicle without the engine running for 15 minutes or more.

Violators could be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail or a fine of up to 500 dollars.

Under the new law (SB 2), leaving a child under six in a running car for any length of time will still be a traffic infraction, punishable by a fine ranging from 50 to 500 dollars.

The measure also says that parents can't leave children in a car for any length of time if the "health of the child is in danger," although it does not spell out who should decide that.

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