Here in Florida, the temperature goes from hot to hotter especially in the summer months. While leaving a child in a car is not always unlawful*, leaving a child or pet in a hot car can be deadly.
Even at 70 degrees on a sunny day, after a half hour, the temperature inside a car is 104 degrees. After an hour, it can reach 113 degrees. When temperatures outside range from 80 degrees to 100 degrees, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly climb to between 130 to 172.
While walking through the parking lot, you see a child or pet in a hot car. You are appalled and want to help. What should you do? Break a window? In March 2016, Governor Scott signed into State Law House Bill 131, which “creates immunity from civil liability for property damage that may occur when an individual attempts to rescue a minor, elderly or disabled adult, or domestic animal from a motor vehicle.”
But you just can’t start swinging a hammer. The rescuer must have reasonable belief that the person or pet inside is in imminent danger of death or injury. To get immunity, you have to try other options first. Call 911 and stay with the vehicle in question until law enforcement arrives. Take the advice of the 911 dispatcher while waiting. Check to see if the car in unlocked. If it is, open the door to let some “cooler” air flow inside.
While you are perfectly justified to call 911 to save a life, acting on your own can be risky. For instance, the car’s owner can arrive before authorities do. There can be an angry confrontation especially if there are broken windows. Some people don’t like others minding their business. The best thing to do is step aside, jot down the license number and make of car and let law enforcement take it from there.
The Good News is that you can be a Good Samaritan without penalty to you if you are acting in good faith.
* Florida Statute 316.6135 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. Other conditions apply.