'Caylee's Law' Would Make It a Crime Not to Report Missing Children

Filed under: In The News

caylee's law

Caylee Anthony. Credit: AP

Inspired by the murder trial of Casey Anthony, legislators in New Jersey are considering a bill to make it a crime to not to report a missing child.

Anthony was acquitted July 5 of the murder of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee. She insisted the child drowned accidentally in the family swimming pool. Nonetheless, the child had been missing for a month before her disappearance was reported and authorities began their investigation.

"Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy before we find a flaw in the current law," state Sen. Nicholas Sacco, the bill's primary sponsor, tells New Jersey's The Record newspaper. "If in Florida, there had been a conviction of Casey Anthony, we would not have had this press conference, and the missing component of the law would still be missing."

The bill require parents or guardians to report missing children within 24 hours or face up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. It would also impose felony charges for failing to report a death "in a timely manner" or disturbing evidence of a death (currently a misdemeanor).

However, some people say that's a knee-jerk emotional reaction.

Mark Denbeaux, a defense attorney and Seton Hall Law School professor, tells The Record parents who murder their children are not likely to be deterred because they face additional penalties for failing to report their crime.

"It's just anger," Denbeaux says. "It's not examined. It's not thoughtful. It's just sort of a petty anger that's not thoughtful and solves no real problem."

Hudson County, N.J., Prosecutor Edward DeFazio disagrees.

"It's a practical piece of legislation," DeFazio tells the newspaper. "It puts the responsibility where it belongs, with the parents and guardians of young children."

At least 16 states have introduced similar legislation, all calling it "Caylee's Law."

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