California jumps on the 'Caylee's Law' bandwagon

July 15, 2011 6:56:35 PM PDT
California is the latest state to jump on the Caylee's Law bandwagon with not one, but two bi-partisan proposals to make it a crime to not report a child dead or missing within 24-48 hours. This California "Caylee's Law" could go into effect immediately.

The bill is prompted by the death of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony in Florida. She wasn't reported missing for 31 days. Her mother, Casey Anthony, was acquitted of the child's death.

Depending on the version, it could be a felony.

The high profile case of Casey Anthony stunned most people when they discovered the Florida mom did not report her 2-year-old's disappearance for 31 days and that was not a crime.

"As experienced law enforcement will agree, the first 48 hours of a child's disappearance are critical in determining if that child will be found alive," Assm. Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City, said.

When a jury acquitted Casey of murder, the outrage spurred an online petition on urging state governments to enact "Caylee's Law."

So far, more than 1.2 million people have signed it, including Caylee's grandfather, who told a Washington Post blogger, "This is a great legacy for my granddaughter. Other children still need assistance."

But some in the legal community say Caylee's Law is not necessary because child endangerment and abuse laws are sufficient and that politicians are grandstanding.

"They take an ill-conceived policy decision and try to rush through a law in order to capitalize on the publicity behind a high-profile trial," ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson said.

Critics too wonder if Caylee's Law may create criminals out of parents who are legitimately grief-stricken.

"You can't just call a time out when the life of your child is involved; I mean, you've got to step up to the plate," Assm. Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, said.

Child abuse experts say state laws need to be clearer on what's expected of parents.

"If we want to have the best opportunity to rescue a child, to make a difference and prevent that tragic outcome, we all need to know very quickly that there has been a critical incident," The Child Abuse Prevention Center spokesperson Sheila Boxley said.

California lawmakers will have to act fast. They are on summer break until mid-August and will only have month after that to get Caylee's Law approved.