Anyone who has ever raised a teenager knows that these young people have a strong desire for independence and freedom at the same time that they're reshaping their notions of responsibility for themselves and others. Running away doesn't usually solve any problems, at least under most circumstances, but sometimes they learn this a little too late. If you're dealing with a teenage runaway in Florida, or if you're personally thinking of slipping away in the night, it's best if you understand the state's laws.
Sheltering and Aiding
It's unlawful to shelter or aid anyone who is under age 18. Florida's "Becca Bill" declares that it is against the law for any adult "other than the child's parent or guardian to shelter a runaway for more than 24 hours without permission of the child's parent or a law enforcement officer." Aiding can include helping a runaway teen obtain shelter, even in a hotel or motel. Doing so is considered a first degree misdemeanor under Florida law.
Filing a Report
The parent or person of knowledge who comes in contact with the teenager is required to file a report with the police if the teenager runs away. If he's caught by the police, he can be detained at a juvenile detention center until arrangements are made to return him to his parents. Florida law states that police must accept a report when it is filed and there is no requirement that the teen must be missing for 24 hours.
Florida law requires that all police reports for runaways should be entered into the National Crime Information Center, although the police are not required to begin a search immediately. Children who are believed to be in danger, who are under the age of 13 or who are classified as mentally or physically disabled are put on the Critical Missing Persons list. Amber Alerts are only issued for life-threatening situations and are "intended only for the most serious, time-critical child abduction cases."
Running Away to Other States
If a teenager from Florida runs away to another state or if a teenager from another state runs away to Florida, the state of Florida and the other state involved will work together to "provide for the welfare and protection of juveniles." Florida has adopted this as a measure of the Interstate Compact on Juveniles, which many other states have also approved as state law.
It's illegal to shelter or aid a runaway in Florida without first securing permission from the parents or law enforcement.
David McGuffin is a writer from Asheville, N.C. and began writing professionally in 2009. He has Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of North Carolina, Asheville and Montreat College in history and music, and a Bachelor of Science in outdoor education. McGuffin is recognized as an Undergraduate Research Scholar for publishing original research on postmodern music theory and analysis.