New law results from death of Caylee Anthony

3:40 PM, Apr 9, 2012   |    comments
Caylee Anthony
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Tallahassee, Florida -- Lying to police about a missing child becomes a much more serious offense under a new law resulting from the death of two-year-old Caylee Anthony.

Gov. Rick Scott has signed into law a bill that increases the penalty in such cases from a misdemeanor to a felony.

After Casey Anthony was acquitted of murder in her daughter's death, state lawmakers filed a half dozen bills aiming to prevent another case like the death of Caylee Anthony. The girl was missing for a month before her mother reported it.

Casey Anthony was convicted of misdemeanor charges for lying to police and sentenced to four years in prison. She was released last summer after time served.

Under the new law, she could have been sentenced to prison for 20 years.

Steve Casey of the Florida Sheriffs Association thinks the law will help serve as a deterrent.

"I think when someone understands when a law enforcement officer is questioning them that this is a felony if they were to mislead that officer, they're less likely to want to withhold information and hopefully would provide it and allow us to quickly find that child and keep them from being harmed."

The Florida Senate formed a special committee last year, which became known as the "Caylee's Law" committee, to examine all of the different bills filed after the acquittal of Casey Anthony. An idea to require people to report a missing child within a certain amount of time, such as 48 hours, did not end up in the final version.

The law will apply to anyone who lies to police about a missing child 16 years of age or younger and who suffers "great bodily harm, permanent disability, permanent disfigurement or death.

Steve Casey believes lawmakers found the right balance.

"There were a number of bills filed. They all had their view of how the matter should be handled. I think the committee did a good job of trying to work through all of that and come up with something that was reasonable, not overreaching but yet provide law enforcement the tools that they would need to protect these children."

The law takes effect October 1.

Dave Heller

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