Assemblyman Paul Cook (R- Yucca Valley) announced that he will introduce “Caylee’s Law” legislation that would make it a felony for parents, guardians, or caregivers to fail to report a missing child under the age of 12 within 48 hours of the child going missing.
“Parents are the legal and moral caretakers of their children, and if something happens they should notify the proper authorities,” said Assemblyman Cook. “When a child goes missing or, in the worst-case scenario, a child dies, the early hours are critical to law enforcement. Our laws shouldn’t allow bad actors like Casey Anthony to wait over a month to report a missing child. This bill will go after people like her but won’t incriminate well-meaning or distraught parents.”
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Assemblyman Cook’s proposal, which will be known as Caylee’s Law. would make it a felony for a parent, guardian, or caregiver to fail to report a missing child under the age of 12 to law enforcement within 48 hours. Additionally, it would be a felony for a parent, guardian, or caregiver to fail to report the death of a child under the age of 18 and the location of the body to law enforcement within 2 hours of the discovery of death. These reporting requirements would also be fulfilled by notifying emergency medical personnel and would be waived if the child dies in a hospital or other medical facility.
The California lawmakers were prompted by the case of Caylee Anthony, a Florida 2-year-old, whose mother, Casey Anthony, was acquitted of murder but found guilty of lying to authorities about the child’s whereabouts. Caylee’s grandparents reported the disappearance to authorities in July 2008, 31 days after the child had last been seen.
Her body was discovered five months later. Casey Anthony was convicted of a mere four counts of falsifying police reports, each of which carried only a 1-year prison term. Casey claimed Caylee had drowned in a swimming pool and claimed, falsely, that Caylee was with a nanny for the 31-day period. Florida courts could do little to punish Casey, as state law did not require parents to report missing or deceased children. California has a similar lapse in the law.
Cook will be joined on the bill by Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) as a joint-author and by Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore), Assemblyman David Valadao (R-Hanford), and Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) as co-authors. Similar Caylee’s Law efforts are underway in Florida, Oklahoma, New York, and West Virginia.