Location:
CRIME AND CRIMINALS; JUVENILES - LEGISLATION;
Scope:
Other States laws/regulations;

OLR Research Report


March 19, 2012

 

2012-R-0130

(Revised)

“CAYLEE'S LAW”: LEGISLATION IN OTHER STATES

 

By: Mark Randall, Research Fellow

Hendrik deBoer, Research Fellow

You asked for (1) a summary of passed or proposed legislation in other states in response to the result of the Caylee Anthony case and (2) policy arguments for and against these measures.

SUMMARY

At least 35 states are considering or have considered legislation in response to the highly publicized death of Caylee Anthony, often called “Caylee's Law.” New Jersey so far is the only state to have enacted a version of “Caylee's Law.” The Florida legislature has recently passed legislation that is pending governor approval.

The model statute is named after Caylee Anthony, a Florida toddler whose death became nationwide news. Casey Anthony, Caylee's mother, failed to report her daughter missing for more than a month and the child's body was discovered near the Anthony home several months later. After giving several fabricated explanations, Ms. Anthony admitted that she had known about Caylee's death and disposed of the body. After a high-profile trial, Ms. Anthony was acquitted of 1st degree murder and related felony charges; she was convicted on four misdemeanor counts of providing false information to the police.

The “not guilty” verdict shocked and angered many who had been following the case and produced a groundswell of legislative proposals that would criminalize a parent's failure to report the disappearance or death of a child. The volume of bill filings is partly due to a well-organized, online petition campaign urging legislators to pass Caylee's Law. As of July 2011, it was reported that more than 1.5 million people had signed the petition.

Policymakers are divided in their support of such legislation. Proponents argue that the law is needed to make parents act more responsibly by holding them accountable for failing to report their child missing or dead. Some prosecutors have indicated that such laws would give them another tool to protect vulnerable children.

Opponents contend that the bill is unnecessary because a parent's failure to (1) act to protect the health and safety of his or her child and (2) notify the authorities about a death or the location of a dead body are already crimes in most states. Moreover, some members of law enforcement have warned that ill-considered laws on reporting missing children risk punishing the innocent and tying the police up with investigations of missing child cases where no foul play was suspected.

ENACTED LAW

New Jersey

In 2011, New Jersey became the first state to enact a version of Caylee's Law. The law requires the parent, legal guardian, or custodian of a child under age 14 to report the child's disappearance within 24 hours of the time the parent knew or should have known that the child was missing. It makes failure to do so a crime of the 4th degree, punishable by imprisonment for up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both (P.L. 2011, ch. 174, codified at NJSA 2c:12-1.3).

The law also increased the penalty, from a misdemeanor to felony, for violating the state law that prohibits a person from willfully failing or refusing to notify authorities of any death.

Florida

Pending the governor's signature, Florida will become the second state to enact a version of Caylee's Law. Its new law makes it a crime to knowingly and willfully give false information to mislead a police officer's investigation of a missing child. If the child who is the subject of the investigation suffers great bodily harm, permanent disability, permanent disfigurement, or death, the person commits a third degree felony, punishable by imprisonment up to five years or a fine up to $5,000. Otherwise, the person commits a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to one year or a maximum $1,000 fine (House Bill 37).

PROPOSED LEGISLATION

Based on information from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and media reports, legislators in at least 35 states have proposed Caylee's Law legislation. Many states are considering multiple bills. While all deal generally with the issues addressed in Caylee's Law, there is considerable variation among them. For example, proposed laws vary in the age range of children covered, the time period within which a parent must report the child's death or disappearance, and the penalty for failing to do so.

Table 1 below provides information on a representative sample of the pending bills. Where a state has more than one bill pending, we selected those that were farthest along in the legislative process.

It shows, where applicable,

1. the legislative citation;

2. the ages of children covered;

3. reportable events;

4. reporting deadlines;

5. penalties; and

6. notes on significant aspects of the legislation, including provisions that apply when a parent or guardian gives false information to the police.

Table 1: Proposed State Legislation

State / Cite

Age

Reportable Event

Reporting Deadline

Penalty

Notes

Alabama

(SB 65)

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within 12 hours

Class B felony, punishable by imprisonment for between one year and two days and 20 years, a fine of up to $30,000, or both

Applies when child suffers great bodily harm, permanent disability, or disfigurement while missing

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

Class C felony,

punishable by imprisonment for between one year and one day and 10 years, a fine up to $15,000, or both

 

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within 12 hours

Class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of up to $6,000, or both

 

Under age 13

Death / location of body

Within One hour

Class C felony

Applies when death occurs while in parent or guardian's care

Arizona

(HB 2018)

Under age 6

Disappearance: Parent must report if he or she believes that child is victim of physical injury

Within 24 hours of knowledge

Class 5 felony, punishable by imprisonment with a presumptive term of 18 months

 

Under age 18

Death

Unspecified

Class 6 felony, punishable by imprisonment with a presumptive term of one year

 

California

(AB 1432)

Under age 14

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

Misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both

 

Under age 14

Death or disappearance under circumstances where a crime may have occurred or the child may be in danger

Within 24 hours

Misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, a fine up to $2,000, or both

Delaware

(HB256)

Under age 18

Disappearance

Unspecified

If the child dies: Class E felony, punishable by imprisonment up to five years

If the child suffers a serious physical injury or is sexually assaulted: Class G felony, punishable by imprisonment up to two years

Otherwise: Class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to one year, or a fine up to $2,300

 

Georgia

(HB974)

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within 18 hours

Punishable by imprisonment between one and ten years

 

Under age 16

Death

Within 12 hours

Punishable by imprisonment between one and ten years or a fine between $1,000 and $5,000

Not applicable when the death occurs in a hospice or under the care of a physician

Hawaii

(SB2485)

Under age 18

Disappearance

As soon as reasonably possible

Class C felony, punishable by imprisonment up to five years or a fine up to $10,000

 

Under age 18

Death

As soon as reasonably possible

 

Under age 18

Not specified

Not specified

Applies when the parent or guardian knowingly, intentionally, or willfully gives false information to the police

Illinois

(HB 3804)

Under age 13

Disappearance or death

Within 24 hours

Class 4 felony, punishable by imprisonment between one and three years, a fine of up to $25,000, or both

Parent or guardian must reasonably believe child is missing, dead, or that death of child was caused by homicide, accident, or other suspicious circumstances

Under age 2

Disappearance or death

Within one hour

Same circumstances as above

Under age 13

Not specified

Not specified

Applies when parent of guardian gives false information to police

Illinois

(SB 2537)

Under age 12

Death or disappearance

In a timely manner

Class 3 felony, punishable by imprisonment between two and five years, a fine up to $25,000, or both

Applies when parent or guardian knows that child is missing and knew or reasonably should have known child in potential danger of death or serious injury

Under age 12

Not specified

Not specified

Class 3 felony

Applies when parent or guardian gives false or misleading information to police and includes willfully touching, removing, or disturbing the evidence

Iowa

(HF 2253)

Under age 13

Disappearance

Reckless failure to make contact or verify whereabouts within 24 hours

Class B felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to 25 years

Applies when child found dead or died from injuries sustained while missing

Under age 13

Class C felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine of between $1,000 and $10,000

Applies when child suffers serious injury

Under age 13

Aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to two years and a fine of between $625 and $6,250

Applies when child suffers no injury

Under age 13

Disappearance

Failure to make contact or verify whereabouts within 24 hours

Class C felony

Applies when child found dead or died from injuries sustained while missing

Under age 13

Class D felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of between $750 and $7,500

Applies when child suffers serious injury

Under age 13

Serious misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and a fine between $315 and $1,875

Applies when child suffers no injury

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

Serious misdemeanor

Applies when parent or guardian fails to make contact or verify whereabouts and safety of child

Kansas

(HB2534)

Under age 13

Disappearance

Promptly

Severity level 8, nonperson felony, punishable by imprisonment up to 23 months, a fine up to $100,000, or both

Must be with the intent to conceal another crime

Under age 18

Death

Promptly

Failure by a parent to report: Severity level 8, nonperson felony

Failure by person otherwise required to report:

Class B nonperson misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to six months, a fine up to $1,000, or both

 

Under age 13

Unspecified

Unspecified

Severity level 8, nonperson felony

Applies when parent of guardian gives false information to police knowing that such information is false and intending that the officer or agency will act relying upon such information

Kentucky

(SB 33)

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within one hour

Class D felony, punishable by imprisonment between one and five years

 

Louisiana

(SB75)

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within 14 hours

If the child is found dead: Punishable by imprisonment between two and 50 years or a fine up to $50,000

If the child is missing more than six months, but not dead: Punishable by imprisonment between two and 10 years or a fine up to $25,000

If the child is physically or sexually abused: Punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years or a fine up to $10,000

If the child is unharmed: Punishable by imprisonment up to six months, a fine up to $500, or both

 

Between ages 14 and 17

Disappearance

Within 26 hours

Same as above

 

Under age 18

Death

Within one hour

Punishable by imprisonment up to five years and a fine up to $5,000

 

Under age 18

Unspecified

Unspecified

Punishable by imprisonment up to five years

Applies when parent of guardian gives false information to police

Maine

(LD1633)

Under age 18

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

Class C crime, punishable by imprisonment up to five years or a fine up to $5,000

Must know that the child is missing and know or reasonably should know that that child is potentially in danger

Maine

(LD1634)

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within 48 hours

Class C crime

 

Under age 18

Death

Within 2 hours

Class C crime

Under age 18

Unspecified

Unspecified

Class C crime

Applies when parent of guardian gives false information to police with the intent the intent to mislead the agency or employee or impede the

investigation

Maryland

(SB139)

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

Felony punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both

 

Between ages 13 and 17

Disappearance

Within 48 hours

Misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to five years, a fine up to $5,000, or both

Only if (1) the child suffers from a mental or physical handicap, (2) the disappearance is of a suspicious or dangerous nature, (3) there is reason to believe the child has been abducted, or (4) the child has previously been subject of a child abuse report

Under age 18

Death

Within one hour

Felony punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both

 

Under age 18

Unspecified

Unspecified

Felony punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years, a fine up to $10,000, or both

Applies when parent of guardian gives false information to police

Massachusetts

(HB 3905)

Under age 17

Disappearance

When whereabouts unknown for 48 hours

Punishable by imprisonment for of up to five years

 

Under age 17

Death

Within one hour of occurrence

Punishable by (1) imprisonment for up to five years or (2) a fine of up to $10,000 including imprisonment for up to one and a half years

Michigan

(SB 580)

Under 13 years

Disappearance

When no contact or knowledge of whereabouts for 24 hours

Felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine of up to $5,000

Provides affirmative defenses

Mississippi

(HB126)

Under age 14

Death

Within 24 hours

Circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the death occurred as a result of a crime: Felony punishable by imprisonment between one and five years and a fine of at least $5,000

Otherwise: Misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment between 30 days and one year and fine of $1,000

 

Under age 14

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

Circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the child was in danger of physical danger: Felony punishable by imprisonment between one and five years and a fine of at least $5,000

Otherwise: Misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment between 30 days and one year and fine of $1,000

 

Missouri

(HB1167)

Under age 17

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

If death or serious injury occurs: Class B felony, punishable by imprisonment between five and 15 years

Otherwise: Class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to one year or a fine up to $1,000

 

Under age 17

Death

Within one hour

Class D felony, punishable by imprisonment up to four years or a fine up to $5,000

 

Nebraska

(LB 1169)

Under age 13

Disappearance or death

Within 72 hours of knowledge

Class 4 felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine up to $10,000, or both

Provides affirmative defenses

New Hampshire

(SB271)

Under age 12

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

Class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to one year or a fine up to $2,000

 

Under age 12

Death

Within 12 hours

Class A misdemeanor

 

New Mexico

(SB13)

Under age 18

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

Misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment between six months and one year or a fine up to $1,000

 

Under age 18

Death

Within one hour

Misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment between six months and one year or a fine up to $1,000

Not required if the death occurred under the care of a health care professional or emergency medical personnel

New York

(AB 596)

Under age 18

Disappearance or death

Within 24 hours

Class D felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both

Failure to report must be knowing or intentional

New York

(AB936)

Under age 18

Disappearance or death

Within 24 hours

Class E felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to four years, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both

Not required to report death if child is under the care of a health care professional or emergency medical personnel

Ohio

(HB299)

Under age 17

Disappearance

Within one hour of knowledge

Felony of the 2nd degree, punishable by imprisonment between two and eight years, a fine up to $15,000 fine, or both

Felony of the 3rd degree, punishable by imprisonment between nine and 36 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both

Applies if child is harmed

Applies if child is unharmed

Under age 17

Death

Within one hour of knowledge

Felony of the 3rd degree

Ohio

(SB203)

Under age 18

Disappearance

Child under age 13: within 24 hours

Child age 13 to 17: within 48 hours

If child is harmed: felony of the 2nd degree

If child is unharmed: felony of the 3rd degree

Applies if child is harmed

Applies if child is unharmed

Under age 18

Death

Within one hour of knowledge

Felony of the 3rd degree

Oklahoma

(SB1721)

Under age 16

Disappearance

Within 48 hours of knowledge

Felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years

Also prohibits parent or guardian from concealing the death or disappearance of a child

Under age 16

Death

As soon as reasonably possible

Felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years

Oregon

(HB4048)

Under age 12

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

Class C felony, punishable by imprisonment up to five years, or a fine up to $125,000, or both

Must be under circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to believe that the child is in danger of physical harm

Under age 12

Death

Within 24 hours

Class C felony

Must be under circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to believe that the death was a result of a crime

Pennsylvania (HB1841)

Under age 18

Death

Not specified

Felony in the 3rd degree, punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years

Prohibits parent from concealing the death of a child

Pennsylvania (HB1842)

Under age 18

Disappearance or death

Not specified

Felony in the 3rd degree

Also prohibits parent from falsely incriminating another or providing fictitious reports to law enforcement authorities regarding child

South Carolina

(H4442)

Under age 18

Disappearance or death

Within 24 hours

Felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment

 

Under age 18

Unspecified

Unspecified

Felony, punishable by up to five years imprisonment

Applies when parent or guardian gives false information to police with the intent to obstruct, delay, prevent, or impede the investigation of the death or disappearance of the child

South Dakota

(SB 43)

Under age 14

Disappearance

Within 48 hours of knowledge

Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of up to $2,000, or both

 

Under age 18

Death

Within six hours of knowledge

Class 5 felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000

Tennessee

(SB 2123)

Under age 18

Disappearance

Within 24 hours of knowledge

Class E felony, punishable by imprisonment for between one and six years and a fine of up to $3,000

 

Vermont

(S124)

Under age 18

Disappearance

Within 24 hours or as soon thereafter as reasonably practicable

Punishable by imprisonment up to five years, a fine up to $10,000, or both

 

Under age 18

Death

Within two hours or as soon thereafter as reasonably practicable

Punishable by imprisonment up to five years, or a fine up to $10,0000, or both

Not required if the child dies at a health care facility or while under the care of a health care provider

Virginia

(HB494)

Under age 18

Death

Within one hour

Class 6 felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $2,500, or both

Not required to report death if child is under the care of a health care provider

Washington

(HB2726)

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within 48 hours

Gross misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to one year, or a fine of $5,000, or both

 

Under age 18

Death

Within 6 hours

Class C felony, punishable by imprisonment up to five years, or a fine of $10,000, or both

 

West Virginia

(HB4242)

Under age 18

Disappearance

Within 24 hours of knowledge, or

within 12 hours of knowledge if disappearance creates a substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death

Child under age 12: felony, punishable by imprisonment of between one and five years and a fine up to $3,000

Child ages 12 to 17: misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of between $100 and $500, or both

If failure to report is for the purpose of concealing a criminal act or activity, penalty is a felony, punishable by imprisonment of between three and 13 years and a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000

Wisconsin

(SB299)

Under age 13

Disappearance

Within 24 hours

If the child dies: Class D felony, punishable by imprisonment up to 25 years, a fine up to $100,000, or both

If the child suffers an injury that causes a permanent disfigurement

or results in a permanent or protracted loss or impairment of a bodily function: Class F felony, punishable by imprisonment up to 12 years and six months, a fine up to $25,000, or both

If the child suffers pain or an injury such as a broken bone or one that requires stitches: Class H felony, punishable by imprisonment up to six years, a fine up $10,000, or both

If the child is unharmed: Class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment up to nine months, a fine up to $10,000, or both

 

Age 13-15

Disappearance

Within 48 hours

 

Age 16-17

Disappearance

Within 72 hours

 

Source: State Legislatures' websites and official statutes

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