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.”