Proposed Caylee’s law criticized by law enforcement and court officialsby John Kennedy | October 3rd, 2011
Florida law enforcement and judicial officials Monday cautioned lawmakers about trying to create a tough new law spawned by the Casey Anthony case, although they acknowledged some legal changes may help blunt potential child abuse.
Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on Protecting Florida’s Children, said it was possible lawmakers would consider creating a misdemeanor child abuse law that could be applied when a youngster faces the threat of harm.
Current law contains no such provision. Felony abuse laws can only be deployed after a child suffers injuries at the hands of a caregiver, slowing the role of law enforcement in stepping into cases, said those testifying before Negron’s committee.
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Major Connie Shingledecker said a misdemeanor law would assist deputies looking to protect children in a home where parents are using drugs, or are otherwise negligent.
“For law enforcement, it’s a great option to have that tool in your armory,” Shingledecker said.
Negron’s panel is charged with examining Florida’s child protection laws in the wake of this summer’s verdict by an Orlando jury which cleared Casey Anthony of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.
Caylee Anthony was last seen on June 15, 2008. Her mother waited a month before telling her parents or police that the child was missing. Caylee Anthony’s body was found dead in December 2008.
Like every other state in the nation, Florida does not have a law making it a crime to not report a child missing. Florida lawmakers have filed at least eight bills criminalizing failing to report, with at least 25 other states considering similar legislation.
But those testifying Monday warned against such a law, saying it could interfere with efforts to find an abducted child, or work against prosecutors seeking later to convict someone accused of murder or abuse.
Because of constitutional safeguards against self-incrimination, Jacksonville-area State Attorney Brad King told the panel that if someone reports a missing child, and that youngster is later found dead, a judge could determine that crime scene evidence is not admissable in court.
King also said that proving someone failed to report a missing child within a 24-hour period, as most of the proposed legislation calls for, will be tough.
“What you are asking us is to prove the negative, that someone didn’t report,” King said. “That could be very difficult.”