Houman Fakhimi

Caylee's Law a bad Gut Reaction to the Public's Mob-Like Mentality After the Casey Anthony Trial

Do a quick Google search you can find nearly 1.5 million results in less than a second for "Caylee's Law." While it hasn't become a law in any state or under federal guidelines, politicians are rushing to cash in on the public's outrage in order to boost their re-election hopes.

Caylee's Law, as proposed, would make it a felony if a parent doesn't report a child missing within 24 hours or if they fail to report the death of a child within an hour. Rarely do gut-reaction bills make for good laws, but it is likely that somewhere, it will be a law. Some are pushing for this type of law on a federal level, while 16 states have already had lawmakers propose similar bills, The Associated Press reports.

Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyers believes that rushing to push through this type of legislation is irresponsible and continues the trend of laws named after crime victims that play more to emotion than reason. Though they have become predictable, these laws usually get pushed through legislatures without applying common sense first.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few months, you probably have some knowledge about the Casey Anthony trial in Orlando, Florida. In 2008, her daughter Caylee went missing from their home. Casey Anthony failed to report her missing and after five months her mother finally reported her missing.

Casey Anthony was charged with first-degree murder, manslaughter and other related charges, but a jury recently found her only guilty of four counts of lying to police. She initially told detectives a babysitter abducted the child and other lies. But her jury found her not guilty of the murder and manslaughter charges after the state failed to prove its case with no physical evidence linking the girl's mother to the crime.

A recent column in The Huffington Post makes some good points about the rush to push through legislation. For one, a high-profile media case like the one of Caylee Anthony isn't representative of what normally happens in courthouses across the country. Juries usually get it right, but when prosecutors fail to prove a case or a defense lawyer outsmarts the state, people get all bent out of shape. Among the columnists points, this stands out:

"Even more regrettable is that every time a Casey Anthony-type trial captures the public's attention, someone gets the idea that we need a new law in response to the completely unrepresentative case, a law that presumably would have prevented that particularly travesty from happening. The problem, of course, is that the new law -- usually poorly written and passed in a fit of hysteria -- is too late to apply to the case it was designed for. But it does then apply to everyone else."

Activist Michelle Crowder came up with the 24-hour and 1-hour time limits, though she recently told CNN she didn't consult with any law enforcement before coming up with the idea, which has gone viral on the Internet and caused droves of people to call and email their lawmakers to push for such a bill. There may be no way to even show when a child went missing or when the child died, so this law could prove to be pointless anyway.

Despite when unrealistic crime television shows may portray, it is nearly impossible for medical examiners to determine the time of death of a person who has died. It is often difficult to nail down how a person died, let alone what the exact time was.

The column also brings up these important points in this ill-conceived law, such as:

What if the child dies during the night and isn't discovered until the morning?

What if a parent or guardian falls asleep and a child dies playing outside? Neglect maybe, but a felony punishable by prison time?

How do you pinpoint when a child goes missing? From the time it was discovered or from the time the child gets abducted, if the child is ever found?

If a family is on a camping trip and a child drowns, but no one has cell phone service are the parents going to be charged with a crime?

This proposed law has many problems and while it is being proposed based on anger rather than sound reasoning, it is our hope that reasonable lawmakers take a look at these proposals and make law that can help rather than hurt.

Contact an Orange County criminal defense attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are charged with a crime.

Additional Resources:

Why 'Caylee's Law' Is a Bad Idea, by Radley Balko, The Huffington Post

States weight 'Caylee's Law' in verdict aftermath, by Brent Kallestad, The Associated Press