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 both the State Senate and the General Assembly.
“Cooperation between parents and law enforcement is imperative in the search and rescue of missing children and drastically increases the chances of locating them in a timely manner, while they are still alive,” said Senator Sacco (D-Hudson/Bergen). “Caylee’s Law will add specific and strict guidelines to the law as to when and who parents must contact when their child disappears.”
“The case of Caylee Anthony, the two-year-old child whose mother Casey failed to report her missing for 31 days, has uncovered inconsistencies and inadequacies in our law that allow negligent parents to go without answering for their actions,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Middlesex/Mercer). “By increasing the crime of failing to report your missing child or a death to a fourth degree felony, hopefully, we can deter parents and guardians who believe that they can deceive or evade law enforcement.”
The bill (S-3010/A-4297) 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 by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months 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 girl 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.
“The first few hours are critical in finding a missing person and when a parent, such as Casey Anthony, neglects her responsibility to report her child missing – thereby impeding the search and rescue efforts – that individual deserves to be penalized,” Senator Greenstein said. “Our current laws allow for this type of inexcusable behavior and we must change them to correct this obvious deficiency.”
“While a Florida jury may have acquitted Casey Anthony of first degree murder and manslaughter, it is obvious that her actions during Caylee’s disappearance are both irresponsible and reprehensible,” said Senator Sacco. “I do not believe that having this law on the books would have prevented Caylee’s death, but I do believe that this legislation is a necessary step to provide the protection needed to children whose parents are shirking their parental responsibilities by allowing for longer jail times and larger fines for those who are obviously neglecting their children.”
Similar bills have been introduced in at least 15 other states.
The bill passed the full Senate by a vote of 38-0. It now heads to the Governor’s desk for consideration.