MILPITAS – A law inspired by a well-publicized Florida missing child case could be coming to California if a Milpitas area lawmaker has anything to say about it, but opponents of the legislation say it’s too much, too soon.
California Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D–Fremont) has signed on as co-author of a bill to introduce “Caylee’s Law” to California. Wieckowski’s East Bay assembly district includes Milpitas, Fremont, Union City and Pleasanton.
Caylee’s Law is named for 2-year-old Florida girl Caylee Anthony, who was reported missing by her grandmother 31 days after she vanished in July 2008. Caylee’s body was found in December 2008 and her mother, Casey Anthony, was eventually tried and acquitted of the girl’s murder earlier this year.
If passed, AB 1432 would make it a felony for a parent or guardian to not notify law enforcement of a missing child within 24 hours of the child’s disappearance.
“In this day and age, is it too much to ask a parent or guardian to notify police within 24 hours if a reasonable person would suspect a child has died as a result of a crime or has disappeared and is in danger of physical harm? The answer is no,” Wieckowski said. “We must protect the children from the predators who would do them harm.”
AB 1432 applies to children under the age of 14 and would be applied to cases in which circumstances would cause “a reasonable person to believe the child is in danger of physical harm or died as the result of a crime.” It was introduced in the California Assembly by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell (D –Los Angeles).
Opponents of the bill believe legislators are responding to the national outrage over Casey Anthony’s acquittal, rather than considering the logistics of enforcing such a law.
“Laws named after crime victims and dead people are usually a bad idea. They play more to emotion than reason. But they’re disturbingly predictable, especially when they come after the death of a child,” wrote Huffington Post reporter Radley Balko.
Dr. James Downs, the Coastal Regional Medical Examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, is currently writing a book on the forensic ethics of Caylee’s Law. He told Balko there’s no way for a coroner to determine time of death in the narrow window required to enforce Caylee’s Law.
“I understand that people are outraged, and I understand why they’d want a law like this, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea. I don’t know how you’d enforce it,” Downs said in Balko’s Huffington Post article. “You can’t say for certain that a person died an hour and five minutes ago as opposed to 45 minutes ago.”
Regardless of its detractors, Caylee’s Law continues to gain momentum among the public. Petitions in support of the legislation have popped up across the country and continue to gather signatures.
Wieckowski said the proposed legislation is “a common-sense response that promotes parental responsibility and could save lives through timely notification of law enforcement officials.”