TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The Senate committee formed in Tallahassee following the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial has decided to develop legislation that would dramatically increase penalties for intentionally misleading police in the case of a missing child.
On Thursday, the so-called "Caylee's Law" committee agreed to write up a bill that would increase the penalty for giving investigators false information in missing child cases from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.
That charge could put a person behind bars for five years or more, depending on the number of lies made to police.
Initially, the committee considered creating enhanced penalties for cases involving a child 12 years of age or younger. But at the request of Sen. Arthenia Joyner, they decided to raise the age to children 16 and under.
Joyner says it's not a perfect bill but it's the best lawmakers can do at this time.
"Hopefully it will be sufficient to cover situations like what happened in Orlando. At least give some more teeth to the law so that law enforcement will have another way to go after people who intentionally mislead or lie to them."
The committee was formed following the Casey Anthony trial to study legislation that resulted from the not guilty verdict. Several lawmakers filed bills creating a requirement that caregivers report missing children within a certain amount of time.
But the committee decided to drop the idea of creating a specific timeframe for reporting a missing child, such as 48 hours. Lawmakers were concerned it might create a misperception that people should not contact police for a certain period of time if a child goes missing.
As Sen. Joe Negron said, people should contact police immediately when children are missing under unusual circumstances because time is critical in the initial hours of their disappearance.
Negron thinks raising penalties for people who offer false or misleading information in missing child cases is the best approach for now.
"I think we're making a clear statement that every parent has an obligation to cooperate with law enforcement when their child is missing, and if you intentionally mislead the police there are serious consequences."
First Coast News