The unbearable heat and humidity of summer are in full force throughout Florida. This time of year, it’s common to see animals left in cars at shopping centers, restaurants, and even in driveways. If you come upon a vehicle with an animal left in it, seemingly unattended and unsupervised, can you break the window without facing trespassing charges? What about breaking the window to help a child left in a car in a similar circumstance? These are important questions and ones the team from Piotrowski Law will answer in today’s post.

Florida Protects Those Who Rescue Pets and Children

A law signed by Governor Rick Scott in 2016 protects those people from trespassing charges in Florida who choose to rescue pets and children from unattended vehicles. The law permits people to break into vehicles to rescue pets or vulnerable people who might be in imminent danger of suffocation or choking due to the extreme heat and humidity of Florida.

How Does the Law Protect Citizens?

The law protects citizens from any civil liability from the damage they might incur to a vehicle for breaking a window to rescue an animal trapped in a hot car or for rescuing a child in a hot car. The law specifies that domesticated animals can be rescued, which means any animal that would be kept as a pet in a home, such as a dog or cat. The law does not mention livestock animals.

Rescuers Must Do the Following

In order to be free from civil liability, rescuers must do the following before breaking into the vehicle:

  • Checked the vehicle to ensure it was not unlocked
  • Have a reasonable belief that due to the circumstances, the pet or child in the vehicle was in imminent danger of permanent disability, great bodily harm, or death
  • Made a call to 911 either immediately after breaking into the vehicle or right before breaking into the vehicle
  • Use only the force necessary to break into the car
  • Stay with the pet, child, or person until emergency personnel arrived on the scene

Be sure you do not confront the owner of the vehicle, or whoever was driving it, when they return to the location of the parked vehicle. You do not want to get into a physical altercation with them over breaking their window. Let the police handle charging them with child endangerment or another crime for leaving a child or pet in the car. 

Here’s the bottom line: you cannot be charged with trespassing if you break into a car to rescue a child or pet who appears to be in imminent danger, assuming you followed the requirements outlined by the law earlier in this post.

Arrested for Trespassing to Save a Pet in a Car? Call Piotrowski Law

If you broke into a vehicle in Florida to rescue a pet or child and wound up getting arrested and charged with trespassing, you need to call the premier criminal defense law firm in Miami. Call the office of Piotrowski Law at 305-204-5000 to schedule your free consultation with a member of our team.