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Caylee's Law: Closing the Loopholes in Florida Law

Senator Mike Fasano (R), New Port Richey, has draft legislation for the 2012 legislative session after the Casey Anthony verdict came down.

Since people locally and throughout the country followed the Casey Anthony trial, I wanted to know what aspect of the case could have been addressed differently by the law and whether there were any gaps that the legislature could address.

A Pinellas county jury found the Orlando mother in the death of her daughter Caylee.

I spoke with Sen. Mike Fasano's office about the verdict and a new law he is proposing. Fasano's district falls into parts of north east Clearwater.

“Over and over, from the beginning of this, Sen. Fasano kept asking about the 31 days: why is it that this child was missing for 31 days and no one reported it?” said Greg Giordano, Fasano's chief legislative aide.

"As we know now, there is no law in Florida that requires that missing children be reported to law enforcement within a certain time-frame.  If there had been such a law on the books this case may have turned out quite differently." 

Fasano hopes to close this loophole in Florida law, and I think it would get law enforcement involved in a timely fashion when there is a missing child. Also, it is another tool that could be used in a prosecutor's arsenal whenever someone is eventually charged by the state for this type of crime.

I asked about the criticism in the media that says Caylee's Law is a political knee-jerk reaction for personal gain of elected officials:

"Fasano’s response to those critics is simple: If the life of one child can be saved by the threat of prison time for someone who fails to report the child’s absence than the law will have the desired effect," Giordano said. "Nothing can be done to bring Caylee back. However, if future children who may one day be in the same situation as Caylee was, then the work done to pass such a law would be worth the effort."

Though members of the House have already started filing bills, the Florida Senate is still in the statutory revision process through late July/early August, and a Senate bill cannot be filed prior to the completion of that process. That is why Senator Fasano has not yet filed his bill, and why it is still "in the works."

Fasano had researched what loopholes in the law allowed for it not to be a crime for a child to be missing or dead and have it not be reported to law enforcement.

"It is outrageous that the law didn't protect a child from such a fate," Giordano said.

The proposed legislation would provide for a felony charge to be brought against a parent or caregiver that failed to report to law enforcement that a child is missing or dead.

“That could have addressed additional charges for Anthony,” Giordano said.

Fasano’s legislation also includes a provision that creates a second degree felony for a caregiver who fails to report the death of a child within two hours of learning of the child’s death or reporting the location of the child’s body within two hours of learning its location."

I think there are definitely positive developments that can come from the proposed Caylee's Law that Florida and other states are developing, as well as the federal law people are signing a petition to support on the subject.

Stopping the shortfall in state statutes as Fasano proposes when it comes to someone we all need to recognize as important, a child, means having the courage for taking a hard look and researching these issues to see where the existing laws of Florida failed in this case. It is definitely something that calls for leadership, commitment and long-term dedication.

Do different local police agencies and law enforcement officers always take a report? No. What then? Are mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect always reporting suspected child abuse and neglect as required by law?  If those mandatory reporters fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect, are they ever charged or prosecuted for that in Florida? Just can't seem to think of one. Perhaps, it could be bad for business.  What exactly is happening every day in our courts?  Too often, people do not care to ask without first being in the glare of a bright light from the national media. Is there accountability when there are no consequences? 

It is time to choose to make Florida one of the best states for a child to grow up in, and for each precious life of a child to become valued, protected, and nurtured as basic human dignity demands of us all

Here are the details of Fasano's draft bill from Giordano:

"Senator Fasano is proposing legislation that will require a caretaker (someone in a custodial role, i.e. parent, grandparent, babysitter, guardian, etc) who willfully or by culpable negligence fails to make contact or verify the whereabouts of a child 12 years of age or younger for a period of 48 hours will be guilty of a third degree felony if he/she fails to report the child’s absence to law enforcement at the end of said 48 hours. 

"If the child suffers great harm, disability or permanent disfigurement while missing the charge will be raised to a second degree felony.  If this law had been on the books prior to the Anthony case than a charge of second degree felony could have been made due to the fact that 31 days passed without Caylee’s absence being reported."

Senator Fasano is proposing legislation that will require a caretaker (someone in a custodial role, i.e. parent, grandparent, babysitter, guardian, etc) who willfully or by culpable negligence fails to make contact or verify the whereabouts of a child 12 years of age or younger for a period of 48 hours will be guilty of a third degree felony if he/she fails to report the child’s absence to law enforcement at the end of said 48 hours.

"If the child suffers great harm, disability or permanent disfigurement while missing the charge will be raised to a second degree felony.  If this law had been on the books prior to the Anthony case than a charge of second degree felony could have been made due to the fact that 31 days passed without Caylee’s absence being reported."

Here are other references to proposed Caylee's Law acts:

Here's why some think a Caylee's Law is not such a good idea.

State lawmakers around the country drafting Caylee's Law.

National petition for Caylee's Law.

keith long August 24, 2011 at 02:37 PM
Everyone invited to Caylee's Law Town Hall Sept 17th at Pinellas Park library. Contribute to a community wide effort to create a positive takeaway from the terrible event. 727-498-0112 for details

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