Senate Panel to Consider Caylee’s Law Today [AUDIO]
Under current New Jersey law it is a simple disorderly persons offense if someone is found guilty or refusing or neglecting to report a death. The State Senate Law and Public Safety Committee is scheduled to consider a bill that would upgrade it to a more serious crime with stricter penalties.
UPDATE: THE SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVED THE BILL TODAY. IT NOW HEADS TO THE FULL SENATE.
A disorderly persons offense is punishable by up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. State Senator Linda Greenstein’s bill would upgrade this offense to a crime of the fourth degree. Fourth degree crimes are punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
This bill, named “Caylee’s Law,” is in response to the tragic case of Caylee Anthony, whose mother, Casey Anthony, was recently found not guilty of Caylee’s murder. In that case, Caylee Anthony was missing for 31 days before her disappearance was reported by her grandmother. This bill seeks to address this situation by imposing harsher penalties on anyone who fails to report a child’s death and criminalizing the failure of parents to promptly notify authorities when their child is missing.
“In the case of Caylee Anthony the family waited 31 days which is amazing really and tragic,” explains Greenstein. “One of the features of that very tragic case was they were never able to definitively answer the cause of death.”
In total, 22 Democrats are signed on as co-sponsors of Greenstein’s legislation. The committee is also set to consider a Republican-sponsored measure which adds a provision to the State’s law on endangering the welfare of a child to make it a crime of the third degree for a person to fail to notify the appropriate law enforcement agency of the death or disappearance of a child under the person’s legal duty of care within 24 hours from when the person knew or should have known of that death or disappearance. Third degree crimes are generally punishable by a fine of up to $15,000, a term of imprisonment of three to five years, or both, but under the bill, a person convicted of this crime would have to serve at least three years before being eligible for parole.
The GOP bill also establishes as a crime of the second degree concealing the death or disappearance of child under a person’s legal duty of care. A person is guilty of this crime if that person provides false information to a law enforcement officer with purpose to obstruct, delay, prevent, or impede an investigation of the death or disappearance of the child. Crimes of the second degree are punishable by a fine of up to $150,000, a term of imprisonment of five to 10 years, or both.
Greenstein says she is amenable to merging her bill with the Republican measure to adopt the stricter penalties.