Lawmaker pushes Az to adopt ‘Caylee’s Law’
Parents would face felony charge for not reporting missing child in 24 hours
PHOENIX — Prompted by the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida mother who didn’t report her daughter missing for a month, a state lawmaker wants Arizona parents to face a felony charge if they don’t report a child missing within 24 hours.
Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale, introduced a bill for the 2012 legislative session would apply to children up to age 6. It would make failing to report such children missing within 24 hours a Class 5 felony punishable by up to a year and a half behind bars.
Florida and Oklahoma are among other states considering versions of what’s become known as “Caylee’s Law,” named after Anthony’s 2-year-old daughter who later was found dead.
After a jury acquitted Anthony in July of first-degree murder and manslaughter while convicting her of providing false information to law enforcement, Ugenti received many letters from constituents calling for a law.
“I don’t know anyone who didn’t have a reaction when they found out that a mother, who knew her baby was missing for a month, didn’t report it,” she said. “That’s so unacceptable.”
HB 2018 differs from measures in other states, Ugenti said, in that it calls for a lesser punishment – other states are looking at as much as 15 years behind bars – and doesn’t include all minors. She said the proposed punishment is a strong enough tool for prosecutors and that she focused on young children because they are most vulnerable.
“I can’t imagine there ever being a reason why you won’t report your child missing,” Ugenti said.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said the bill should apply to anyone under 18. For example, he said, if a 16-year-old working as a prostitute after running away from home wasn’t reported missing, officials should investigate the circumstances.
“I don’t think we ought to simply accept the fact that kids over 15 run away,” he said. “We need to look at the reason why they left.”
However, Montgomery said he supports the goal of the legislation.
“Why wouldn’t you report your child within 24 hours, other than being such a pathetic parent you didn’t know they weren’t around,” he said.