A lakes area lawmaker who has co-sponsored a bill providing penalties for those who fail to report to police that a child is missing or has died got it right when he said it’s embarrassing and frustrating that such issues need to be addressed. Yet based on recent history, we’re lending support to the legislation and ask all west Oakland lawmakers to do the same.
House Bill (HB) 4872, which has been referred to the state House Judiciary Committee and is co-sponsored by state Rep. Bill Rogers (R-Milford), would require that individuals responsible for the care of a child or minor and know them to be missing for 24 hours or dead to report that to police.
Penalties for a violation would be four years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
The law would not apply to a person responsible for the care of the minor or child if the death occurred while the minor was under the care of another person who is required by law to report the death, or if the individual is unable to report the death or disappearance of the minor, provided that he or she reports the child as missing or dead when they are able to do so.
Under the bill’s current provisions, the reporting requirements are met if an individual contacts a 9-1-1 emergency operator and reports the minor’s death or reports the child as missing and provides his or her own name and address to the 9-1-1 operator.
As defined in the legislation, a child is a person 13-years-old or younger, and a minor is defined as a person under 18-years-old.
HB 4872, if enacted, would become known as “Caylee Anthony’s Law,” and is prompted by the case of Florida mother Casey Anthony, who was found not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter. The Anthony case captivated the public’s attention and prompted a nationwide drive to adopt Caylee’s Law at the state level.
Enacting HB 4872 surely couldn’t hurt — although we concede it may well not serve as much of a deterrent. Still, there’s a couple reasons why we believe it should be a crime to not immediately report a child or minor as missing, or the death of a minor.
Prompt reporting of a missing child is crucial, as law enforcement personnel need to quickly follow up on leads. A delay in reporting a child missing doesn’t bode well for locating the child safe and sound.
If — as was reportedly the situation in the Anthony case — one fails to report a child’s death while claiming the child is missing, law enforcement and private search organizations will waste valuable time and resources that could be directed at other cases. We would encourage an addition to HB 4872 that would require violators to reimburse police or private organizations for the cost of searches under such circumstances.