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Michigan’s Proposed “Caylee’s Law”

The verdict shocked the nation. A Florida jury acquitted Casey Anthony of murdering her two-year-old daughter, Caylee, after allegedly suffocating her and dumping her body in a nearby wooded area. After Casey failed to report the little girl missing for 31 days, the entire community spent thousands of man hours searching for Caylee. Her lifeless body would have been found earlier, had a local meter reader told police that he discovered a skull in the woods, instead of just reporting a suspicious object.

Fueled by the outrage over the verdict, two Michigan lawmakers have proposed legislation that would make both the failure to report a missing child, and the failure to report a dead body, felony offenses punishable by imprisonment. Known as Caylee’s Law, the proposed legislation aims to close holes in Michigan law that could aid in murder investigations such as that of Caylee Anthony.

Failing to report a child under the age of 13 missing within 24 hours of his or her disappearance would hopefully prevent situations like Caylee’s, where her mother, Casey, did not report the girl missing for 31 days. Concealing a dead body or failing to immediately report the discovery of a corpse would hopefully preserve evidence by preventing decomposition. Immediate reporting would also reduce the possibility of evidence tampering.

These laws are important additions to Michigan’s books in both criminal and family law arenas. Missing children are often a product of custody disputes, kidnapping and sometimes domestic violence. A law requiring the reporting of a missing child within a 24-hour period, with felony teeth attached, would hopefully deter possible kidnappers and punish those who do not quickly report a disappearance.

If a parent believes he or she, or his or her child, is in danger from a significant other or the other parent, he or she can apply for a personal protection order from the courts. Doing so provides a layer of deterrence and a record of who is making the threats should a child go missing. That, combined with the proposed reporting law, would theoretically give law enforcement a specific suspect within 24 hours of a child’s disappearance.

Time is of the essence in such cases. Michigan’s proposed laws could provide law enforcement the crucial time they need when a child disappears.