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Florida lawmakers introduce 'Caylee's Law' in response to case

TALLAHASSEE — Orlando resident Casey Anthony was found not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Caylee on Tuesday, a controversial verdict that set off a national debate.

By Thursday, two Florida lawmakers had quickly filed a bill called "Caylee's Law" which would upgrade from a misdemeanor to a felony a failure to report a child missing or a child's death within a certain time frame. Under current law, failing to report a missing person is a misdemeanor.

The bill (HB 37), sponsored by Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, came a day after a different lawmaker, Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, had issued a press release saying he plans to file his own bill called Caylee's Law.

Hager's bill would also make it a felony not to timely report a missing child, but it has not been officially filed. Hager did not return a call Thursday seeking comment on whether he still planned to file his bill.

Lawmakers are clamoring to file "Caylee's Law" bills in response to the highly publicized murder trial, and address perceived flaws in the Casey Anthony case, which garnered international attention.

Two-year-old Caylee was reported missing in July 2008 and her body was found in December. Anthony did not report her daughter missing for 31 days, one of the suspicious pieces of evidence used against her.

Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, co-sponsor of "Caylee's Law," said he joined forces with Diaz after receiving numerous e-mails from constituents pleading with him to change state law.

"For her to be able to go out and party for 31 days and mislead law enforcement, that seems wrong," Plakon said. "This bill says it should be illegal for a caretaker to do such a thing."

Plakon said while the bill wouldn't impact Anthony, it does create stiffer penalties for any similar situation that may arise in the future. "Had a law like this been in place, she would have a felony right now," Plakon said.

The three-page bill makes it a felony for a parent or other caregiver to not report a child under the age of 12 as missing after a 48-hour period. It also makes it a felony to not report a child's death or "location of a child's corpse" to police within two hours of the death.

There is not yet a Senate sponsor to the bill, but Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, said he wants to hold a hearing on the issue. Evers, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, has asked Senate President Mike Haridopolos if he can spend his first committee meeting in September on considering a response to the Casey Anthony case.

"While I respect the judicial process and the burden of proof that exists in such cases, I join my fellow Floridians in voicing concern about any inconsistencies or inadequacies in the law that could potentially lead to future issues such as this," Evers said in a letter sent to Haridopolos on Thursday.

Though Florida is ground zero for "Caylee's Law" bills, a national movement has also sprung up in response to the not guilty verdict. An online petition calling for a federal law that would make it a felony not to timely report a missing child has drawn over 400,000 signatures and more than 9,000 people have joined a "Caylee's Law" Facebook group.

Florida lawmakers introduce 'Caylee's Law' in response to case 07/07/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 8, 2011 7:49am]

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