Legislation Would Make Failing to Report a Missing Child in a Timely Manner a Felony
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Nicholas J. Sacco and Linda R. Greenstein which would make it a felony for failing to report the disappearance of a child within 24 hours or for failing to report a death was approved today by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
“When a child goes missing, every second in the search and rescue effort counts. We want to make sure that law enforcement officials can begin their search immediately without any delays to a process that can bring a child to safety,” said Senator Sacco (D-Hudson/Bergen). “This bill takes the lessons learned from the tragic case of Caylee Anthony, whose mother failed to report her missing for 31 days and then continually misled law enforcement, and corrects the inconsistencies and inadequacies in the law.”
“Parents in New Jersey have an obligation to protect their children and provide them with a safe and secure environment,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer). “Hopefully, these changes to the law and increased penalties and fines will serve as a deterrent for parents or guardians who believe that they can deceive or evade law enforcement. ‘Caylee’s Law’ will increase the chance of finding a missing child and the likelihood of bringing justice to victims.”
The bill (S-3010) would make it a crime of the fourth degree for a parent or guardian who fails to report to law enforcement the disappearance of their child age 13 or younger within 24 hours. Fourth degree crimes are punishable of up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
The bill also requires a person to report a death to the police, the office of the county medical examiner or the state medical examiner and prohibits them from disturbing the body of a deceased person. The legislation would increase the offense from a disorderly person offense to a crime of the fourth degree.
The bill is named after Caylee Anthony, a two-year-old Florida resident whose mother, Casey Anthony neglected to report her missing for more than a month. After 31 days, Caylee’s grandmother reported her disappearance to law enforcement and Caylee was subsequently found dead in December 2008. The trial of her mother, Casey, made national headlines and was prominent on cable television. This past summer, Casey was found not guilty of murdering her daughter, but guilty of misleading police.
“Caylee Anthony’s death and the negligence of her mother, Casey Anthony, have shined a light on the deficiencies in the law here in New Jersey,” Senator Greenstein said. “Casey’s actions for the month after her daughter’s disappearances are reprehensible and show extreme signs of negligence. We all hope that a case like this never occurs here, but we must alter the law so that we can ensure that our most vulnerable are protected and that justice is on their side.”
“The case of Caylee Anthony is truly heartbreaking. If law enforcements officials had been notified sooner of her disappearance, they may have been able to take steps to bring her to safety and her life could have been saved,” said Senator Sacco. “It is imperative that we do not allow similar situations to happen here in the Garden State and that we give the police the tools they need to successfully rescue and recover missing children and ensure that negligent or abusive parents are held accountable for their actions.“
Similar bills have been introduced in at least 15 other states.
The bill passed the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee by a vote of 4-0. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.