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Caylee's Law in New Jersey and throughout the U.S.

A trial in Florida last year has led to the implementation of new missing children laws throughout the United States. New Jersey was the first state to pass such a law, making it a felony if an adult with custody does not notify law enforcement within 24 hours of discovering a child missing.

The law in New Jersey, and in the 31 other states that have passed or filed similar legislation, is the result of the acquittal of Casey Anthony of the murder of her two-year-old daughter, Caylee, who was not reported missing until 31 days after she disappeared. The child's body was found in the woods near her grandparents' home six months after her reported disappearance.

Although she was found not guilty of her daughter's' murder, Casey Anthony was found guilty on four counts of lying to investigators. She served her four-year maximum sentence while awaiting trial. Under Florida's new law, she could have received a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The New Jersey version of Caylee's law makes it a crime not to report the disappearance of a child within 24 hours, and upgrades the failure to report a death to a fourth-degree crime.

The law criminalizes failing to report the disappearance of a child within 24 hours, and upgrades the failure to report a death in New Jersey to a fourth degree crime. These offenses are punishable by a prison term of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

One New Jersey legislator noted that, "Any law enforcement authority will tell you that the first few hours after a child goes missing are the most critical in determining whether that child is found and unharmed." Others added that the law would speed the discovery of the guilty in child abduction cases. Once months have passed, as in the case of Caylee Anthony, evidence disappears, making it much more difficult for investigators to determine what happened to a child.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, "'Caylee's Law' is latest in long line of event-inspired penalties," by Aaron Deslatte, June 8, 2012. 

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