Caylee’s Law Drafted to Protect Parents and Missing Children
Please welcome guest poster, Marie Owens as she takes you through the ins and outs of Caylee’s Law. Caylee’s Law is the brain child of Michelle Crowder from Durant, Oklahoma, an ordinary person like you and me, who decided to try and make a difference. You can make a difference, too, by signing the petition located here: Sign the Petition for Caylee’s Law LINK
Caylee’s Law Drafted to Protect Parents and Missing Children
Caylee’s Law began as a legislative petition on the Change.org website, initiated by activist Michelle Crowder of Durant, Oklahoma. Crowder was inspired to form the law after following the high-profile Casey Anthony trial, which resulted in an acquittal of first degree murder charges stemming from the death of her daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony. It was alleged that Casey Anthony, who was aware of her daughter’s death, did not report her missing for a period of 31 days. Caylee’s Law, if enacted, would make it a felony for a parent or caregiver to fail to report a missing child within 24 hours in circumstances where the parent or caregiver should have known that the child may have been in danger. In fact, some colleges such as University of Pittsburgh are even incorporating classes revolving around the law for students attaining a criminal justice degree or law degree.
Opponents to the petition have expressed concerns about potential legal ramifications surrounding the narrow reporting time lines. In an interview with CNN, Ms. Crowder acknowledged that she had not consulted with law enforcement officials, medical experts or legal counsel before drafting her petition with the proposed 24-hour and one-hour time line. The portion of the proposed bill that requires a parent or caregiver to report a child missing within 24 hours does not address logical concerns as to when the child was actually missing, as opposed to when the parents realized the child was missing. Caylee’s Law has come under scrutiny by legal analysts regarding the potential for over-compliance. This could potentially result in false reporting by parents fearful of becoming suspects. Possible complications can arise when reporting a hospitalized child’s death, especially if the exact time of death is unclear, as in the unfortunate circumstances of natural disasters or tragic accidents.
Despite opposition, Caylee’s Law is critical legislation designed to prevent time lapses in reporting a missing child. The sooner a child is reported missing the chances of recovery are significantly greater. Amber alerts and media outcries for help can be put into action immediately, and search efforts can begin. The law is designed primarily to end irresponsible behavior on the part of parents and caregivers, as was evident in the Casey Anthony case. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement official reported that national statistics have shown that approximately 45 percent of missing and/or abducted children who are murdered die within the first hour of being reported missing. The number of deaths increases to 76 percent during the first three hours. These facts underscore the importance of Caylee’s Law.
Proposed legislation begins with a petition which is essentially an application for initiation of a new law and a solicitation for support. In-depth legal analysis and research will be conducted before the final draft of Caylee’s Law is completed. The law will be drafted precisely, assuring child safety without placing parents at risk of facing criminal charges
Caylee Anthony was reported missing by her maternal grandmother, Cindy Anthony on July 15, 2008, who related to an emergency dispatch operator that she had not seen her granddaughter for 31 days. Caylee’s mother, Casey Anthony, was charged with first degree murder of her daughter in October 2008. Casey Anthony initially told law enforcement detectives that her daughter had been kidnapped by her nanny on June 9, 2008 and that she had been spending her own time and resources searching for the child, as she was frightened to alert authorities to the disappearance.
The tragic and untimely death of Caylee Marie Anthony touched the hearts of many people worldwide. After many months of massive search efforts conducted by non-profit organizations and volunteers, her skeletal remains were ultimately discovered in a densely wooded area close to the Anthony family home. The televised trial of Casey Anthony in the summer of 2011 was described by Time magazine as “the social media trial of the century.” Casey Anthony was ultimately acquitted of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse and manslaughter of a child, but was convicted of providing false information to police officers.
The basic premise of Caylee’s Law, as drafted by Ms. Crowder, is that parents would be charged with a felony if they fail to report a missing child within 24 hours, or if they fail to report the death of a child, under any circumstances, within one hour. The original petition, as cited on Change.org has garnered approximately 1.3 million electronic signatures since July 19, 2011. In response to Caylee’s Law petitions, law makers in several states have begun drafting versions of Caylee’s Law. Although the imposition of child reporting laws may not save missing children, Caylee’s Law will impose sanctions on parents who fail to report missing children. The possible sanctions or felony charges against parents is the basis foundation of the proposed law. An additional site known as Care 2 has drafted a similar petition in support of Caylee’s Law. The petition, targeted for the Florida Legislature, basically states that any parent or caregiver who fails to report a child under the age of six missing for over one hour is guilty of felony child neglect. A parent or caregiver who falsely reports the circumstances of an accident or injury to a child under the age of six is guilty of felony child neglect. To date, this petition has received approximately 4,750 signatures, with a stated goal of one million supporters.
Ms. Crowder’s initial petition was written in hopes that Caylee’s Law will protect children from injustices of the criminal justice system. Caylee’s Law may be a vehicle through which prosecutors are able to convict a suspected parent of some sort of felony, even though, as in the Casey Anthony case, they may not have sufficient evidence to obtain a murder conviction (www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/11/catlees-law-casey-anthony-_n_893954.html).
The proposed Caylee’s Law petitions, in preliminary form, are important in bringing forth legislation that could save the lives of many innocent children and force parents and caregivers to report missing children. Concerned citizens are encouraged to sign electronic petitions on the Change.org website or on the Care 2 petition site. Caylee’s Law can become crucial legislation for parents and law enforcement agencies in searching for and recovering missing children.
About Marie Owens: As a prospective law student in Washington state, Marie Owens is particularly interested in criminal law and gender issues. She writes to promote criminal justice education, and teaches martial arts in her spare time.