[BATON ROUGE] On March 20, Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones presented at the State Capitol Senator Robert Kolstelka’s Senate Bill 75 which would make it illegal failing to report a child missing or deceased within the allotted time.
If the child missing is over the age of 13, the caretaker would be required to notify the correct authorities two hours after the 24-hour period expired. A missing child 13 years or younger would have to be reported two hours after a 12-hour period.
Reporting a missing child became a highlighted concern after a Florida mother Casey Anthony was tried, and acquitted, for the death of her daughter, Caylee last year.”The District Attorney was unable to meet his burden of truth,” Jones said. Anthony did not contact authorities on Caylee’s disappearance for 30 days.
In line 7of SB 75, it states:
For purposes of this Subsection, there shall be a presumption that a child is missing and that the child’s caretaker knew or should have known that the child is missing when the caretaker does not know the location of the child and has not been in contact with nor verified the location or safety of the child.
Jones said, “The missing alone is not a serious crime. It’s the failure to report.” The penalty of failing to notify authorities of a missing child could ranges from spending a maximum of six months in jail with a possible fine of no greater than $500 to a penalty of two to 50 years of hard labor without benefits of parole, probation or suspension of sentence with a maximum fine of $50,000.
Sen. Robert Adley mentioned concerns of the ages chosen in the bill. He asked Jones, ”What age can a child be considered a child.” Jones said age 17.”Jones called it a “bright line” age which is subject to change.
The bill also proposes a description for appropriate authorities and caretakers. The appropriate authority includes law enforcement and the 911 Public Service Answering Point. The bill says,”’Caretaker’ means the child’s parent, grandparent, legal guardian or any person who, at the time of the child’s disappearance, has physical custody of the child.”
If the caretaker is unable to contact authorities because of circumstance out of his or her power, the bill grants a suspension of the original time period for reporting.
Senate Bill 75 passed favorably and is currently assigned to Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice.