Runaway children pose a serious problem across the country and throughout South Florida. Due to a troubled home life, thousands of minors run away each year. Typical reasons that provoke a child to run away from home include physical abuse, sexual abuse, having one or more parents with an alcohol or drug addiction, extreme poverty, or a mix of these and other poor familial or living standards. Sheltering a runaway child may seem like the right and ethical thing to do, as homelessness among minors is a growing problem, but it is illegal to do so for more than 24 hours in Florida.
It is a First Degree Misdemeanor to Shelter an Unmarried Minor for More Than 24 Hours
While housing a runaway child may have seemed like the logical and kind thing to do at the time, it is actually a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500, to do so for more than 24 hours, unless:
- You have consent from the minor’s parent or guardian;
- The minor is married; or
- You have notified a law enforcement officer and provided the minor’s name and that you are providing shelter.
Assisting with Lodging is Also a First Degree Misdemeanor Under this Law
Even providing assistance in finding shelter, such as paying for or assisting with the purchase of a hotel lodging, is also in violation of Florida statute 985.731. If you have been charged with this offense, you need to contact an attorney immediately in order to clear your name and avoid serious punishment behind bars.
Most at Risk Minors for Homelessness: Females, Children of Abusive Parents, and LGBTQ
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, between 2005 and 2008 (the most recent years for data), youth homelessness rose by 200 percent. One in seven minors will run away from home between the ages of 10 and 18. In total there are 1.3 million minors living without parental or guardian supervision on the streets, with friends, with strangers, or in abandoned buildings. The following statistics provide insight as to why most minors run away from home:
- 17 percent of minors who ran away reported being forced into unwanted sexual acts with a family or household member;
- 75 percent of minors who run away are female;
- 46 percent of minors who ran away reported being physically abused, while 38 percent report being emotionally abused;
- Six to 22 percent of runaway females are pregnant;
- 20 to 40 percent of runaway minors identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, or queer (LGBTQ).
Call a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney Now for Immediate Assistance
This law was created in order to protect minors from dangerous sexual and/or violent adult predators, and if you have been charged with this offense, you need to contact an attorney immediately. Call the criminal defense attorneys of the Skier Law Firm today in West Palm Beach for help.