TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) – In the wake of the Casey Anthony murder trial over the summer, some lawmakers filed bills that would make it a felony to not report a child missing within a certain time frame, with proposals ranging from 12 hours to 48 hours.
Now a Senate committee is trying to determine if there is a need for a Caylee’s Law bill.
On Monday, representatives from several law enforcement agencies across the state testified that proposals to strengthen penalties against parents for not reporting a missing child right away could have disastrous consequences. They said instilling a strict time limit to report a child missing could actually have the opposite of the intended effect.
One Senate proposal that requires parents to report a child missing within 48 hours could be confusing, said Connie Shingledecker, a major with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
“It could have the unintended consequence of confusing parents and having them feel they have to wait 48 hours to report,” Shingledecker said. “Any time you put a time frame on situations like this it can be confusing.”
Law enforcement officials say many parents already delay reporting their children missing because they are under the mistaken assumption they have to wait 24 hours to do so. Adding another requirement into law would only confuse parents further, said representatives from several sheriffs’ offices.
Instead, law enforcement officers pressed the committee to consider strengthening penalties for lying to law enforcement officers during an investigation of a missing, endangered, or murdered child.
“We’d like another tool in our toolbox,” said Sheriff Jeffrey Dawsy with Citrus County.
Anthony was found guilty of providing false information to a law enforcement officer, a misdemeanor. Law enforcement officials say they would like to see the penalty increased from a misdemeanor to a second-degree felony, which carries with it the potential for more prison time than a misdemeanor would.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, the chairman of the committee, pressed law enforcement officials for details on how common it is for a parent to not report a child missing for an extensive period of time. One criticism of Caylee’s Law proposals is that the bills may address a non-existent problem based on the rare example of Casey Anthony.
“We do have parents who fail to report their children as missing and usually it is because they have some culpability,” Shingledecker said. “They are impaired and have left kids with folks they don’t even know.”
But she acknowledged that instances like the Casey Anthony case, where two-year-old Caylee Anthony was not reported missing for a month and a body wasn’t found until nearly six months later, are “very rare.”
Negron said the committee will likely meet one more time before developing recommendations on whether a Caylee’s Law was needed and if so, what it should contain.
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