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‘Caylee’s Law’ that’s not a ‘Caylee’s Law’ gets first nod of approval in Senate

by Dara Kam | January 12th, 2012

A bill prompted by Casey Anthony‘s acquittal last year of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee received unanimous support from a Senate committee this morning.

The measure (SB 858) would make it a third-degree felony for parents or guardians to lie to law enforcement officials during an investigation when a child under the age of 16 is missing and is seriously injured or dies. Each count would be punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $5,000. Under the proposal, Casey Anthony could have been sentenced to 20 years behind bars for misleading police in the investigation into her missing daughter who was later found dead.

“I think it would be utterly reprehensible for a parent to know that their child is missing and intentionally steer law enforcement in the wrong direction,” bill sponsor Joe Negron, R-Stuart, told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee this morning.

The bill is not as far-reaching as other proposals that include making it a crime to fail to report a child missing within a certain period of time. Negron said that’s because law enforcement officials advised that such a law might confuse parents, some of whom already mistakenly believe they must wait 48 hours before contacting authorities when a child goes missing.

But Sen. Alan Hays questioned whether the penalty was severe enough.

“I share your dismay, disgust, reprehension, everything, just the repulsiveness, the very idea of a parent willfully giving false information,” Hays, R-Umatilla, said. “Sen. Negron, I’m ready to throw them in jail and throw the key away.”

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 in December 2008, but her body was so decomposed medical examiners could not determine the cause of death.

Anthony was acquitted of murdering her daughter but convicted of four counts of misleading law enforcement officers. An Orlando judge sentenced Anthony to four years behind bars – one for each count of lying to police officers – and she was released earlier this year after serving three years.

Unlike other measures, Negron’s bill does not bear the “Caylee’s Law” name because Negron said he does not want to pass legislation based solely on the sensational Orange County case. Negron, a lawyer, did not mention Anthony by name during his presentation or later when speaking with reporters.

“It’s not our job to agree or disagree with a particular jury in a particular case. We should respect the work of all our juries who do the best they can with the facts they have. The better way to legislate is to look at the problem in a global way,” he said.

Even so, the bill is the product of a special committee chaired by Negron and created by Senate President Mike Haridopolos in the aftermath of Casey Anthony’s acquittal last summer.

“Events occur from time to time that are of such a dramatic nature and such a significant nature that it prompts us to once again renew our commitments in a number of different areas,” Negron, R-Stuart, said.

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