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House unanimously passes watered-down ‘Caylee’s Law’

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Lying to the police when a child goes missing would be a felony under a measure unanimously passed by the Florida House this afternoon and almost certain to be approved by the Senate.

“Caylee’s Law” (HB 37) comes in response to Casey Anthony’s acquittal last year of murdering her two-year-old daughter Caylee. The House approved the measure, identical to a Senate companion (SB 858), with a 113-0 vote.

“This bill assures that we do not have a repeat of the Caylee Anthony fiasco,” Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, said.

The proposal, crafted by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, 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.

Hager was among other lawmakers who wanted an even stronger law that would have made it a crime for parents or guardians to report a child missing within a certain period of time. But Negron, a lawyer who headed a special Senate committee to look into the issue, rejected such far-reaching proposals because law enforcement officials advised that such a law might confuse parents.

A softer ‘Caylee’s Law’ looks more certain

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 by John Kennedy

Months after Florida lawmakers joined many nationwide in pushing tough new laws in the aftermath of the Casey Anthony verdict, a generally modest change in state law was approved Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee.

In a 15-0 vote, the panel approved legislation (CS/HB 37) that would make it a third-degree felony for parents or guardians to lie to law enforcement officials during an investigation when a child under age 16 is missing, dies or is seriously injured.

Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering her two-year-old daughter, Caylee. But she was convicted of four misdemeanor counts of misleading law enforcement officers investigating her daughter’s 2008 disappearance and death in the Orlando area.

Casey Anthony was sentenced to four years in prison last summer, but released soon after her conviction because she had already been behind bars for most of that period.

The House proposal, similar to legislation advancing in the Senate, could have led Anthony to be sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison. Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, whose district includes part of Palm Beach County, is sponsoring the Senate measure (SB 858).

Still, the House and Senate bills are less harsh than the initial proposals that emerged in the wake of the Anthony verdict. In hearings on the early ideas, law enforcement officials warned against approving criminal penalties on parents or guardians who delay reporting a missing child, saying it could hurt those who innocently misunderstand the need for rapid action.

“It’ll never be justice for Caylee,” said Rep. Jose Diaz, R-Miami, sponsor of the House measure. “But it’s a much needed adjustment to our laws.”

 

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

Thursday, January 12th, 2012 by Dara Kam

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.”

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Casey Anthony case prompts Senate committee to recommend harsher penalties for lying about missing children

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

A special Senate committee created in response to the murder of two-year-old Caylee Anthony and subsequent acquittal of her mother Casey wants to make it a felony to lie to law enforcement officials when a child goes missing and is hurt or killed, punishable by five years in prison.

Senate Select Committee on Protecting Florida’s Children Chairman Joe Negron, R-Stuart, proposed the measure heightening penalties under current law, now a misdemeanor for lying to law enforcement officials investigating crimes. Instead, Negron’s measure would make it a third-degree felony for anyone to “knowingly and willfully” give false information to law enforcement officers conducting an investigation involving a child 16 years of age or younger.

Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering her daughter, two-year-old Caylee Anthony, this summer 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.

Under Negron’s proposal, Anthony could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

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Proposed Caylee’s law criticized by law enforcement and court officials

Monday, October 3rd, 2011 by John Kennedy

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.”

Committee examines missing children laws in response to Casey Anthony case

Monday, September 19th, 2011 by Dara Kam

A select committee headed by Sen. Joe Negron began looking into whether Florida’s laws need to be changed in reaction to the Casey Anthony case, in which a jury cleared the Orange County woman of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee Marie.

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.

Following Casey Anthony’s acquittal, state lawmakers filed more than a half-dozen bills that would impose fines or jail sentences for failing to report a missing child, currently not a crime in Florida or any other state.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos created the Select Committee on Protecting Florida’s Children to make recommendations on possible changes to the law.

At the committee’s first meeting Monday afternoon, Negron said the select committee’s first order of business will be to decide whether new laws are needed and cautioned against allowing emotions to prevail in crafting legislation.

“The committee is not here to second guess the jury,” Negron, R-Stuart, said.

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