by Debra Opri – Attorney and Legal Analyst
Support for the recently proposed initiative, “Caylee’s Law,” which resulted from public outcry following Casey Anthony’s acquittal, has been picked up widely throughout the country. In fact, legislators from 30 states have pledged to carry a version of the law which would make it illegal for parents and guardians to fail to report when their child has been killed or gone missing for 48 hours. Today,CA Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell introduced Assembly Bill 1432, which would make it a felony for a parent or guardian to fail to report a missing or dead child within 24 hours of the death or disappearance if it occurred under suspicious circumstances.
As a family lawyer, my prime objective is to protect the child, and I am certain this law fills a void. For authorities to know at the earliest possible moment whatever details a parent/guardian may have as to the disappearance or death of a child is essential. All heard the statistics of how the chance of finding a missing child alive plummets after the first 48 hours. Should this law had been in place three years ago, its namesake, Caylee Anthony, may have experienced a different kind of “justice.”
However, this law is far from perfect. One of the biggest issues is the time deadline. This deadline is a huge controversy in numerous states. Many claim that the 48-hour deadline that many states have considered to be much too short and severe. California has pushed it even farther with Assembly Bill 1432 reducing the time restriction to 24 hours. With this strict guideline, law enforcement believes police stations would be filled with concerned, frightened parents, trying to find children that may have simply run away. How would we pay for this with California’s budget crisis? And why should we care when taking into consideration the balancing of the protection of a child against a budget?
One thing to put to question is when does the time deadline actually begin? Say your daughter went to sleep over at a friend’s house, and disappeared on the way over there. You would have no way of knowing when the child actually disappeared, and therefore unable to report the child missing. The next day, not only would you find your daughter/son missing, , but you would also possibly be charged with a felony. Another issue that has arisen is the age limit. Many of the bills that are being put forth only apply to children 13 and under. What of the older children? Numerous teenagers are kidnapped a year, and shouldn’t they be protected as much as a 12 year old? If we consider the rights of an infant to those of a child who may have more of a chance to help herself, is the best start to this bill to start by focusing on the infant like the little girl named Caylee.
Furthermore, I have concerns about how we deal with the motives behind this newest law. Had Casey Anthony been found guilty, would this law would likely never have come into being. Is the true motive behind this law to save a life, or to venge the life of Caylee – or both. And does it really matter, if something good will come of such tragedy.
What I am most proud of is how the entire country has pulled together to get this law passed. California joins massive activism in Florida, New York, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and West Virginia — all who initiated their individual grassroots campaign which began with an inline petition. To see such diversity in political standings all proxying for the passage of this bill demonstrates the public’s painful outcry for reform. “Caylee’s Law” transcends the legal realm crossing over into responsibility, culpability and morality. I am proud to join the ranks of those who want to make a difference. I will stand up and I will fight for Caylee’s memory. I will fight to save a life. My fight starts now. Join us. Help us to make a difference to the next little Caylee Anthony.