TRENTON – Parents could go to prison if they fail to report their child’s death or disappearance under legislation proposed by New Jersey lawmakers this week.
Republicans and Democrats each introduced their own versions of a “Caylee’s Law” bill in the state Senate. The bill is named for Florida toddler Caylee Anthony, whose death and disappearance went unreported for almost a month.
Under the Democrats’ bill, sponsored by Nicholas Sacco (D-Bergen and Hudson) and Linda Greenstein (D-Mercer and Middlesex), it would become a fourth degree crime to fail to report a death or missing child. Fourth degree crimes are punishable by imprisonment for up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
The Republicans’ bill, sponsored by Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) and Diane Allen (R-Burlington and Camden), would make it a third degree crime to fail to notify authorities of a child’s death or disappearance. It would also make it a second degree crime to conceal the death or disappearance of a child. Third degree crimes are punishable by a term of imprisonment between three to five year, a fine of up to $15,000 or both. Second degree crimes are punishable by fines of up to $150,000, imprisonment for between five to 10 years, or both.
Under current law, it is a disorderly persons offense punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment a fine of up to $1,000 or both, to willfully neglect to report a death. There is no legal obligation for parents to report the disappearance of a child.
“It is actually with a bit of reluctance that I submit this legislation, as government really should not have to legislate where common sense should prevail,” said Kean. “But common sense dictates that a parent or guardian who does not to report the disappearance or death of a child in their care should be considered criminally negligent.”
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