Cumberland Times-News

April 30, 2013

Governor expected to sign Caylee’s law legislation this week

Measure criminalizes failure to report missing or deceased child

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to sign Caylee’s law on Thursday, said Delegate Kevin Kelly, the bill’s chief sponsor. Kelly has fought for the past two legislative sessions to get the bill passed.

“If a child disappears for more than 24 hours, law enforcement should be notified,” Kelly has said. “It’s common sense. You need to do an Amber Alert.”

Although the bill is nicknamed Caylee’s law, it can only become law after General Assembly passage and receiving the governor’s signature. Kelly said the governor’s office has confirmed the planned signing. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers of the General Assembly during this year’s session. The vote in the House was 137-0 and in the Senate, 47-0.

“According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, as of September 19, 2012, 11 states have enacted legislation criminalizing the failure to report a missing or deceased child. Key variations among the bills include the qualifying age of the missing or deceased child, the length of time in which the child’s guardian must report the incident and the classification of the crime,” a fiscal and policy note prepared by the Department of Legislative Services stated.

The requirements of the bill are simple, Kelly said.

“This bill prohibits a parent or other person who has permanent care or custody or responsibility for the supervision of a minor who is younger than age 13 from recklessly or willfully failing to notify the appropriate law enforcement agency that the minor is a ‘missing child’ within 24 hours of the time at which the parent or other person knew or should have known that the minor is a missing child,” according to the fiscal and policy note.

The proposal developed after Casey Anthony’s acquittal in Florida of charges that she killed her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

Anthony did not report her daughter missing to police, who were finally alerted to the missing child by Casey Anthony’s mother 30 days after the child was last seen. Anthony was convicted of four misdemeanor counts of lying to investigators.

The proposed law is designed to allow prosecutors to bring charges against adults who do not quickly report missing children, with most of the proposals requiring law enforcement notification within 24 or 48 hours after a child goes missing, or a shorter time frame to report the death of a child.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.