Caylee's Law continues moving through NC General Assembly - WNCN: News, Weather

Caylee's Law continues moving through NC General Assembly

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State lawmakers will look closely at a bill Thursday aimed at holding parents and caregivers more accountable for reporting missing children.

Caylee's Law is an effort by states around the nation and has been in the works in North Carolina for about a year and a half as House Bill 149.

It's named after Caylee Anthony, whose Florida mother Casey Anthony failed to report her daughter missing for a month. Caylee's remains were later found. Her mother was found not guilty of murder, but was found guilty of lying to investigators.

"I think we all watched and waited to see what would happen in that case," said Jacqueline Schaffer, Republican representative from District 105 in south Mecklenburg County, who sponsored the bill.

Thursday the bill is expected to make its way into the Senate judiciary committee, a key step before lawmakers make another vote.

Lawmakers said the bill is in response to feedback from citizens.

"When this case was breaking. We had an inordinate amount of emails and calls. Not only did constituents and the public care, obviously members of this body care."

Anthony did not report her daughter Caylee missing for a month," said Kelly Hastings, Republican representative from District 110 in Cleveland and Gaston counties, who also sponsored the bill.

Schaffer said, "There was really very little to charge Casey Anthony or other people in that case."

The bill is aimed at preventing that from happening in North Carolina.

"If your kid is missing for 24 hours, you're going to have to notify law enforcement," she said.

It would be a felony offense and would apply not only to parents, but also other caregivers and people with a great deal of contact with the child.

"If you're a next door neighbor and you have a lot of contact with the child and suddenly that child's gone, missing, you're going to have some responsibility of, ‘Hey, this kid is gone and I need to do something about that.' But, if you're a next door neighbor who has no contact ever, you're not going to have that responsibility," Schaffer said.

While the lawmakers said there may be some concerns about people being implicated who should not be, they said there are safeguards

"There is a good faith provision in there, so if people are acting in good faith, most likely a prosecutor is not going to prosecute them," Hastings said.

Schaffer said, "The offense is triggered when the parent wantonly or knowingly does that. There's just that flagrant disregard for the child's safety."

Hastings said, "It is important to remember that we put those words in there, wantonly, to get at people who are intentionally concealing something about a child or interfering with an investigation about a missing child or an endangered child."

The sponsors said the bill has received unanimous bipartisan support.

"We've had no resistance. I think everyone has jumped on board," Schaffer said.

It has already passed in the House and the House judiciary committee.

"Going through a judiciary committee where there's a lot of attorneys, practicing and non-practicing, you know they're always looking at statutory interpretation and how the bill will read and if the bill is challenged, will it survive in court. So these are difficult bills. The ones that go through judiciary are especially difficult from a legal standpoint," Hastings said.

Once the Senate judiciary committee looks over the bill, it's expected to go to the Senate for a vote, Hastings said.

For more information about the bill, click here.

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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