By Assemblyman Will Barclay
Utica police have been searching for a toddler since he was reported missing on June 11. Sadly, the 9-month-old child was reported missing two weeks after his disappearance by his father. Police have involved some members of the public to help search for the child and asking anyone with information to call. At the time I am writing this, young Levon Wameling is still missing.
This case is an example of why New York needs to pass Caylee’s Law. This law, or some variation of the law, was proposed in many states throughout the U.S. in 2011. The genesis for these laws was a result of the high-profile court case involving Casey Anthony.
In that case, Casey Anthony failed to report her daughter, Caylee, missing until 31 days after her disappearance. The child’s body was later found.
During the court proceedings, prosecutors continued to point out that Casey Anthony failed to report her daughter missing until 31 days after her disappearance.
Despite their attempts to appeal to the jury, there was no provision in the law that she actually violated. Failure to report a missing child is not a crime unto itself. As many prosecutors speculate, this change would likely not be a deterrent to crime but it would be a tool they could use if a case similar to the Casey Anthony case came up.
We may have such a case in Utica.
Caylee’s Law would make it a felony for failure to report a child missing within 24 hours. In addition, this legislation will make it a felony for a parent, legal guardian or caretaker who fails to notify law enforcement of the death of a child, accidental or otherwise.
Had this been law in Florida, prosecutors could have ensured that Casey Anthony served more jail time.
She was acquitted of murder charges in Orange County in 2011. Just this month, Alabama passed a version of Caylee’s Law. Their law did not include a window of time in which parents must report a missing child, but did specify that a parent or guardian can be prosecuted if they fail to report a missing child and the child suffers serious harm or death.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states have enacted a version of Caylee’s Law and 8 more, including New York, have pending legislation.
In New York, Caylee’s Law was first introduced in 2011. At that time, in the Assembly it was referred to Codes Committee where the bill died.
Caylee’s Law was reintroduced this year and again referred to the Codes Committee in February. Unfortunately, again, it didn’t make it out of committee this session.
For most parents who care for their children, it’s unthinkable to wait to report a missing child and hard to imagine the reasons why.
Some media reported the father was using drugs.
Whatever police discover in their investigation, it again sheds light on laws that need improvement.
In the case of extreme negligence or crime, passing Caylee’s Law will give prosecutors more in their arsenal so courts are able to assign a suitable punishment and better protect children from future harm.
It is my hope that with this situation so close to home that lawmakers take this up during our next session to ensure children are better protected and prosecutors can seek penalties.
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