''Caylee's Law'' committee listens to police

3:12 PM, Oct 3, 2011   |    comments
Caylee Anthony
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Tallahassee, Florida - The not guilty verdict in the Casey Anthony murder trial is prompting state lawmakers to take a closer look at ways to better protect children.

Florida's new panel known as the "Caylee's Law" committee met on Monday to consider whether the state needs a new law to try to prevent another case like the death of Caylee Anthony.

The 2-year-old girl was missing for a month before Casey Anthony reported her daughter missing.

Lawmakers have filed about a half dozen different bills creating stronger penalties for not reporting a missing child within a certain amount of time, such as 48 hours.

Police testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Protecting Florida's Children urged lawmakers not to set a specific timeframe like 48 hours.

Maj. Connie Shingledecker of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office said that could have unintended consequences.

"I think once you put a timeframe in there, it can be confusing to parents and I don't want to confuse them any more than they may already be. I don't want them thinking that they have to wait 48 hours to report their child as missing."

Casey Anthony was convicted of providing false information to police and sentenced to four years behind bars.

Citrus County Sheriff Jeffrey Dawsy urged the committee to strengthen penalties for caregivers who give police false information in missing child cases.

Sen. Joe Negron said that offense is currently a first degree misdemeanor. He asked Dawsy if that wasn't enough.

"Not really sir. Not when it becomes an aspect of a life and death situation," said Sheriff Dawsy.

Maj. Shingledecker agreed. She said creating a felony charge for providing false information to police would be very helpful when investigators question someone about a child who was seriously hurt or killed.

"We can caution them with understanding the seriousness of giving us false information and having this tool in our tool box I think would be a really great asset to law enforcement."

Sen. Negron wondered if it would be appropriate to make a process crime, such as offering police false information, as serious as the underlying felony crime. Negron said the Legislature has gone overboard in the past decade trying to be tough on crime.

"That's sort of our reaction to anytime something happens, 'Well, the penalties must not have been severe enough so we'll make it a felony,' as if that's a statement that we're really taking this seriously because it's a felony. We were taking it seriously when it was a misdemeanor too."

Sen. Arthenia Joyner supported Negron's point.

"We're trying to keep from just enhancing everything because this contributes to the overpopulation of our state prisons and the $20,000 or so a year that we are paying to house people and we wouldn't want to see somebody in there for this if, in fact, it was just run-of-the-mill false information."

Casey Anthony was convicted of providing false information to police and sentenced to four years behind bars. But a judge ruled Anthony could go free in July because she had already served enough time in jail while waiting for her murder trial.

Dave Heller

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