Caylee's Law

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A map of the legal status of Caylee's Law in the United States.
  States with law signed by governor
  States with bill passed legislature, sent to governor
  States with bill in legislature

Caylee's Law is the unofficial name for bills proposed or passed in several U.S. states that make it a felony for a parent or legal guardian to fail to report a missing child, in cases where the parent knew or should have known that the child was possibly in danger.[1][2] The first such bill was introduced shortly after the high-profile Casey Anthony trial, due to Anthony not reporting her two-year-old daughter Caylee Marie Anthony missing for a period of 31 days.[3]


The idea for the bill originated with protesters who disagreed with the jury's verdict in the case. Anthony was found not guilty of first degree murder, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated manslaughter of a child on July 5, 2011.[4] Immediately after the trial, support appeared for imposing requirements on parents to notify law enforcement of the death or disappearance of a child and make a parent or guardian's failure to report their child missing a felony.[5][6] One petition, written by Michelle Crowder on, has gained nearly 1.3 million electronic signatures.[7] In response to this and other petitions, lawmakers of Florida, Oklahoma, New York, North Carolina,[8] Ohio[9] and West Virginia began drafting versions of "Caylee's Law".

Legal status[edit]

State Bill Date approved Notes
Alabama SB1[10] 2013-06-10[11] Punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Connecticut HB 5512[12] 2012-10-01[13] Public Act 12-112[14]
Florida HB 37[15] 2012-04-06 Punishable by up to five years in prison.[16]
Illinois SB 2537[17] 2012-08-24 Public Act 097-1079[18]
Kansas HB 2534[19] 2012-05-16
Louisiana HB 600[20] 2012-06-01 Act No. 454; Punishable by up to 1 year in prison.[21]
New Jersey A 4297[22] 2012-01-05 A fourth-degree crime (felony).
North Carolina HB 149[23] 2013-05-17[24] Session Law 2013-52; Class I Felony; Punishable by up to 1 year in prison.[25]
Oklahoma SB 1721 Not yet approved Approved by the Senate.[26]
South Dakota SB 43[27][28] 2012-03-19
Virginia HB 494[29] Not yet approved Introduced by Richmond Delegate Rosalyn R. Dance.
Wisconsin AB 397[30] 2012-04-09

Notable cases[edit]

In South Dakota, two people were charged with failure to report the death of two-year-old Rielee Lovell under the new law.[31] The defense attorney for Laurie Cournoyer claimed that the law violated his client's right against self-incrimination, saying "essentially what the state has done is criminalized a citizen's right to remain silent."[32]


Critics and opponents of Caylee's Law state various reasons for their opposition. Some critics say the law is unconstitutional in that it violates the 5th Amendment. Critics also claim the law will mostly harm innocent parents. The laws as proposed do not distinguish the cause or place of death, therefore even parents whose children die in the hospital due to sudden illnesses are still required to report the death to the local police within the law's time frame or face felony charges in addition to the sudden tragic loss of their child.[33] One critic noted the law could lead to overcompliance and false reports by parents wary of becoming suspects, wasting police resources and leading to legitimate abductions going uninvestigated during the critical first few hours. Additionally innocent people could get snared in the law, for example, if the parents first begin searching for a child instead of immediately calling police, or if parents who are overcome by emotional shock and grief fail to report a child's unexpected death in a hospital.[34] Moreover, critics note that the law isn't likely to affect a parent who murders a child either intentionally or in a fit of anger or rage, since the law will not make it more likely that such parent would report the death within the given time limit. [35] Critics argue that the law is a waste of time and resources, because the law would bog down police with investigations and prosecutions of parents who innocently fail to report within the time limits and with non-emergency reports from parents fearful of prosecution, while those parents that the law is intended to punish will be unaffected by the law because they are no more likely to make a report than they would be without the law and their failure to report is protected by the fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. [36] [37]


  1. ^ "Representatives file Caylee's Law". CFNews. 7 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  2. ^ "Caylee's Law". National Conference of State Legislatures. 
  3. ^ "Florida lawmakers introduce 'Caylee's Law' in response to case". St. Petersburg Times. News Service of Florida. 7 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  4. ^ "Casey Anthony found not guilty of murder of Caylee Anthony; many shocked by verdict". The Washington Post. 6 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  5. ^ Riparbelli, Laura (7 July 2011). "Casey Anthony Trial Aftermath: 'Caylee's Law' Drafted in 4 States". ABC News. Retrieved 2011-07-07. 
  6. ^ "Anthony verdict inspires new law". Christian Post. 
  7. ^ "Caylee's Law won't work". Los Angeles Times. 2011-07-21. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  8. ^ Staff reporter (2011-07-18Include the State of Illinois as states who passed Bills making Caylee's Law a Felony. See History edit.). "Lawmakers Look To Pass Caylee's Law In NC". WSOC-TV. Retrieved 2013-06-15.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ "Ohio lawmakers introduce 'Caylee's Law'". The Associated Press. 1 Sep 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-09-10. 
  10. ^ "Alabama SB1". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. 
  11. ^ "Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signs Caylee's Law". WRBL. Archived from the original on 2013-07-02. 
  12. ^ "Connecticut HB 5512". 
  13. ^ "Sen. Kissel: CT Version of "Caylee's Law" Signed Into Law". Connecticut General Assembly. 
  14. ^ "Sen. Kissel: CT Version of "Caylee's Law" Signed Into Law". Connecticut General Assembly. 
  15. ^ "Florida HB 37". 
  16. ^ Heller,Dave (9 April 2012). "New Law Results From Death Of Caylee Anthony". First Coast News. Archived from the original on 31 July 2012. 
  17. ^ "Illinois SB 2537". 
  18. ^ "Illinois Public Act 097-1079". 
  19. ^ "HB 2534". Kansas Legislature. 
  20. ^ "Louisiana HB 600". 
  21. ^ "Louisiana Act No. 454". [dead link]
  22. ^ "New Jersey A 4297". 
  23. ^ Hastings, Kelly E. (2011-05-08). "HB 149: An Act to Make It a Criminal Offense to Fail to Report the Disappearance of a Child to Law Enforcement, to Increase the Criminal Penalty for Concealing the Death of a Child, to Increase the Criminal Penalty for Making a False, Misleading, or Unfounded Report to a Law Enforcement Agency or Officer for the Purpose of Interfering or Obstructing an Investigation Involving a Missing Child or Child Victim of a Class A, B1, B2, or C Felony, and to Make It a Class 1 Misdemeanor for a Person to Fail to Report the Abuse, Neglect, Dependency, or Death Due to Maltreatment of a Juvenile". North Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  24. ^ staff (2013-05-17). "Governor McCrory Takes Action on Legislation". Office of the Governor. Retrieved 2013-06-15. 
  25. ^ "North Carolina Session Law 2013-52". 
  26. ^ "Oklahoma Senate Approves Caylee's Law". 
  27. ^ "Bill History Report" (PDF). South Dakota Legislature. 2012-03-20. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-06-06. SB 43 
  28. ^ "SB 43". South Dakota Legislature. 
  29. ^ "HB 494 Death of child; parent, guardian, etc., failure to report to local law-enforcement agency, etc". Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ Courtney Zieller. "Wagner adults arrested for 2-year-old's death, admitted to using meth/pot". KSFY-TV. Archived from the original on 2013-01-27. 
  32. ^ Kristi Eaton (11 September 2012). "Lawyer Challenges Death Reporting Law". 
  33. ^ Proposed “Caylee’s Law” Generates Virtual Frenzy
  34. ^ Radley Balko, Why 'Caylee's Law' Is A Bad Idea, Huffington Post, July 11, 2011.
  35. ^ Radley Balko, Why 'Caylee's Law' Is A Bad Idea, Huffington Post, July 11, 2011.
  36. ^ Radley Balko, Why 'Caylee's Law' Is A Bad Idea, Huffington Post, July 11, 2011.
  37. ^ Peter Finocchiaro, Is “Caylee’s Law” a bad idea?, “”, July 8, 2011.