State legislatures react to the Casey Anthony acquittal
Although Casey Anthony was acquitted in 2011 of first-degree murder of her two-year-old daughter, states are taking a look at criminalizing the failure to report a missing child. In Casey’s situation, Caylee was missing for 31 days before the authorities were notified. See more about the case here.
Caylee and her mother lived in Florida. As in many states, there was no law requiring parents or guardians to contact the police when a child went missing. Since then, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma have introduced legislation referred to as Caylee’s Law mandating those legally responsible for a child to report their absence. The Arizona bill (HB 2018) under consideration applies to children under six. Failure to report a missing child within 24 hours would be a Class 5 felony punishable by up to 18 months in prison.
Advocates for child safety disagree about the appropriate punishment for failing to report a missing child. One bill would make the maximum penalty fifteen years in prison. Others believe that Caylee’s Law should apply to all minors 17 and under. An Arizona prosecutor commented that it shouldn’t be assumed that kids over 15 just run away – there should be an investigation into the reasons they left that can only begin once reported to law enforcement.
Child protection laws exist in every state. They specify those who are mandated to report child abuse, abandonment and neglect to either Child Protective Services or the police. The usual categories include anyone responsible for the welfare of a child including teachers, doctors, licensed caretakers and other professionals who come into contact with children. They don’t cover, however, parents who have lost track of their child. That’s due in part to the common practice of almost every parent immediately reporting their lost son or daughter. The Anthony case put the spotlight on an aberration in family life.