Assembly Panel Clears Two Versions Of “Caylee’s Law” Bill

TRENTON – An Assembly committee released two separate measures on Thursday that would make the failure to report a death, or failure to report a missing child within a set time frame, fourth degree crimes in New Jersey.

Both bills are called “Caylee’s Law” in honor of Caylee Anthony, the two-year-old girl from Orlando, Florida, who was missing for 31 days before her grandmother reported her missing. She was found dead months later. Her mother, Casey Anthony, was found not guilty of her murder.

One bill (A-4297) would upgrade the failure to report a death in New Jersey to a fourth degree crime, and criminalize the failure to report the disappearance of a child within 24 hours.

The other bill (A-4322) would require a person to report a missing child to police within 12 hours of when they knew, or should have known of the disappearance. A person who violates this provision would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.

Under current law, failing to report a death is a disorderly person offense, and there is no set time frame for reported a child missing. A disorderly person’s offense is punishable by up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Fourth degree crimes are punishable by imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

“The entire country has mourned the loss of Caylee Anthony, whose little body laid in the woods for months before police were notified she was missing. Had they been notified sooner, they could have determined the cause of her death and justice may have been served for this little girl,” said Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “We know the first hours are crucial in finding a missing child. Prompt notification would help police with their search, and in the awful case that tragedy strikes, help them determine the cause of death, get a guilty conviction and bring justice to the victim.”

Bill A-4297 would also amend current law (N.J.S.A. 52:17B-89) by making it a fourth degree crime to fail to report a death by criminal violence, accident, suicide or any suspicious manner to the county medical examiner, the State Medical Examiner, or the municipal police department where the death occurred; or willfully touch, remove or disturb a body or the clothing on the body.

It would also make it a fourth degree crime for a responsible parent, guardian or other person with legal custody of a child to fail to report the disappearance of a child to police within 24 hours, after becoming aware of such a disappearance.

Under the statutes governing the State Police Missing Persons Unit, a missing child is defined as “a person 13 years of age or younger whose whereabouts are not currently known.”

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