TRENTON – The Senate Law and Public Safety Committee voted to release bill S3010, which would make it a criminal penalty to not report a missing child within 24 hours after learning the child is missing.
Sen. Nicholas Sacco, who sponsored the bill, said about the offenders, “They would be facing a longer jail term and pay much larger fines. I’m pleased that it is in committee.” He said he has the support of Republican co-sponsors Tom Kean and Diane Allen.
The bill would amend current law by making it a crime for anyone who becomes aware of a death by violence or accident and fails to report that death to the county medical examiner, the state medical examiner, or police in the municipality where the death occurred.
Under current law, a person who “willfully neglects or refuses” to report the death, or who touches, removes, or disturbs the body of the dead person, is guilty of a disorderly persons offense, which is punishable by up to six months in prison, a fine of as much as $1,000, or both. The law requires prosecutors to prove the person was aware of the death, and provide proof that the person willfully neglected or refused to report the death.
This bill would upgrade this offense to a crime of the fourth degree. Fourth-degree crimes are punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Under the statutes governing the State Police Missing Persons Unit, a missing child is defined as “a person 13 years of age or younger whose whereabouts are not currently known.”
Sen. Kip Bateman supported the bill, but said, “It amazes me we need to do it.”
The League of American Families and New Jersey Family First support the bill.
The bill’s name, “Caylee’s Law,” is in response to the case of Caylee Anthony, whose mother, Casey Anthony, was recently found not guilty of Caylee’s murder. In that case, Caylee Anthony was missing for 31 days before her disappearance was reported by her grandmother. This bill addresses this situation by imposing harsher penalties on anyone who fails to report a child’s death and criminalizing the failure of parents to promptly notify authorities when their child is missing.