Table of Contents
- Reasons Children Run Away from Home
- Sheltering Runaway Minors
- Helping Runaways Find Shelter is a Crime
Millions of children throughout the country endure difficult living conditions that affect their overall well-being. For some, their home life is so detrimental that it pushes them to run away from home. In 2002, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention estimated 1.6 million youth run away each year in the United States. The Research Triangle Institute studied the issue of runaways in 1995 and counted 2.8 million youth had a runaway experience the previous year. You can read more about runaway children through the National Runaway Safeline, an organization committed to helping runaways stay off the street.
The numbers above indicate that runaway youth are a significant problem in society. Running away from home places children in precarious situations. Children who run away become ideal targets for child traffickers and other predators. Sadly, while your instinct may be to help these children get through a tough time, individuals who assist runaway children by providing them with shelter may break the law.
Reasons Children Run Away from Home
There are many reasons that may drive children to leave home unattended. In a majority of runaway cases, children come from abusive, if not outright dangerous homes. They may experience:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Alcohol or drug addiction
- Extreme poverty
- Lack of acceptance for who they are
- A combination of several detrimental factors
Many children who flee their homes believe that the situation at home can only get worse or have no hope that things will get better. Most of the time, they leave because they can’t imagine their situation being worse anywhere else. Unfortunately, going out into the world often puts them in greater harm.
Sheltering Runaway Minors in Florida
A good-natured individual who encounters a runaway child may believe that providing a temporary shelter is the right thing to do; however, that person would likely be shocked to discover that this is against the law. Under Florida Statute §985.731, it is a first-degree misdemeanor offense to shelter a child who ran away from home for more than 24 hours.
The penalties for helping a runaway are striking. A person who is convicted of the offense could be sentenced to incarceration in jail for up to a year and a fine of up to $2,500.
A person may avoid criminal consequences for housing a runaway minor if:
- He or she has consent from the minor’s parents or guardians to shelter the child
- The minor has a spouse (is legally married)
- The individual has notified local law enforcement of his or her intentions to house the minor and provided the minor’s name
Helping Runaways Find Shelter is a Crime
An individual looking to help a runaway who does not provide shelter himself but offers to pay or help to pay for lodging can also face criminal charges under the law. Assisting a runaway with lodging, such as by paying for a hotel room, violates the same statute.
A person who faces criminal charges in connection to a runaway minor in Florida should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately to avoid serious punishment for having good intentions. An attorney like Brian Gabriel may be able to have the charges against you dropped and your name cleared.
Frequently Asked Questions About Housing a Runaway Child
What’s the penalty for harboring a runaway?
It is a first-degree misdemeanor offense to harbor a child who ran away from home for more than 24 hours.
What are the runaway laws in Florida?
Florida Statute 985.731 details the Runaway Laws in Florida that read, “A person who is not an authorized agent of the department or the Department of Children and Families may not knowingly shelter an unmarried minor for more than 24 hours without the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian or without notifying a law enforcement officer of the minor’s name and the fact that the minor is being provided shelter.”
What’s the punishment for harboring a runaway?
An individual who encounters a runaway child and provides them with temporary shelter is breaking the law. In Florida, it’s a first-degree misdemeanor offense to shelter a child who ran away from their home for more than 24 hours, and a conviction could mean jail for up to a year and a fine of up to $2,500.
What happens if I harbor a minor in Florida?
In Florida, it’s a first-degree misdemeanor offense to shelter a child who ran away from home for more than 24 hours, and an individual who offers to pay or help to pay for lodging for the child can also face criminal charges. Assisting a runaway with lodging, such as by paying for a hotel room, violates the same statute.