Push for Caylee’s Law begins in North Dakota

BISMARCK – A Fargo lawmaker says he’s received about 30 emails in the past few days urging him to sponsor a Caylee’s Law in North Dakota.

Rep. Joe Heilman, R-Fargo, said the chain email from multiple constituents stems from online petition website change.org and states the following:

“On July 5, 2011, at 1:15 pm CST, Casey Anthony was found not guilty of first degree murder in the death of her daughter Caylee Anthony. The only charges she now faces are four counts of falsifying police reports, each of which only carries a 1 year prison term. Since she has been in jail since August 2008, she will be out of jail ENTIRELY too soon.

“I’m writing to propose that a new law be put into effect making it a felony for a parent, legal guardian or caretaker to not notify law enforcement of the disappearance of a child within 24 hours, so proper steps can be taken to find that child before it’s too late.

“The case of Caylee Anthony was tragic, and there is no reason for another case like this one to hit the courts. Let’s do what is necessary to prevent another case like this from happening.”

After the not guilty verdict for the Florida mother was publicized last week, emotional calls for states to pass a Caylee’s Law sprung up across the country. Anthony did not report the disappearance of her daughter for 31 days. Her defense team said Caylee died accidentally by drowning in a swimming pool.

Heilman said it’s common for legislators to receive chain emails on hot topic issues. He said he doesn’t have immediate plans to sponsor a bill. However, he’s asked voters on his Facebook page for their opinion on the issue and said the emails are worth investigating to see if a law is needed in North Dakota.

“We just need to be cautious on reacting to emotional issues and try to make good policy,” said Heilman, who received 10 comments of mixed opinions by Monday afternoon.

Erika Hedger, 25, of Killdeer supports a North Dakota Caylee’s Law.

“The fact that she (Casey Anthony) was not held responsible for failing to report the death/disappearance of her daughter just goes to show that we need a law specific to this type of child neglect and abuse,” she wrote.

But Adam Mahar, 24, of Fargo told Heilman that he doesn’t think the proposed law is a good idea.

“I feel like the intent was good, but emotional reaction to the verdict helped popularize something that isn’t well planned or thought through,” he wrote.

Dickinson Police Capt. Dustin Dassinger said he supports the concept, but there isn’t a problem locally.

“We haven’t had any issues where we haven’t had an immediate report of a missing child,” he said.

Fargo Police Lt. Joel Vettel said it’s rare to see delays in missing-child reports. If there is a delay, it’s a matter of hours, not days, he said.

Vettel said he understands the recent interest in missing child cases and said the department is always looking for good legislation to keep children safe.

“But really, at the end of the day, we would need to really see the type of legislation that they were going to bring forward before we could say if it would truly help us,” he said.

Fargo police recently began working with the A Child is Missing program, which sends messages to targeted areas in a community to help with missing child searches.

Stutsman County State’s Attorney Fritz Fremgen said there are varying versions of Caylee’s Law, and a menu of options should be discussed before moving forward.

“When people want new laws, I ask, ‘How much of a problem is this?’ ” he said. “Thankfully, it’s a rare situation, but if or when it does happen, it’s very, very serious.”

At first glance, the law may sound good, but discussions are needed to determine what will and won’t work, he said.

The soonest a potential Caylee’s Law could take effect in North Dakota is 2013. Although legislators will go back into session in November, leadership has not weighed in whether or not other topics will be discussed besides redistricting and federal health care reform.. The next regular session begins in January 2013.

3 thoughts on “Push for Caylee’s Law begins in North Dakota

  1. After watching the Casey Anthony & being so outraged at the laws that are on the books that children get no rights as far as being missing & not reported I believe we need a new law in effect as soon as possible to bring about punishment if this law is not followed.

  2. This is a foolish knee-jerk reaction idea. The law is nothing but a “feel good” measure to make citizens feel like they have done something positive. This law will be a boondoggle.

    As was mentioned by law enforcement above, most children are reported missing within hours anyways. This law could be used in unforseen ways to unfairly punish parents who didn’t realize their child was missing until a day after the fact. Where are the criteria defining what “missing” means? Hows does law enforcement determine if a law has been broken and arrest a parent for a FELONY? A felony for failing to report a child missing, when they might not be aware of the fact themselves for the first day.

    How about the law is written within 48 hours, and the parent has taken no previous tangible step trying to find their child? Do we make any distinctions for the age of the child? (24-48 hours for any child under 6?)

    If a law was (or is) being created for this new found loophole, I’d only support it provided that it defined very precise criteria for law enforcement to follow to determine if a parent was being intetionally negligent, or merely looking for a child who has “run away” from home before, and they are delaying notifying anyone, as the child has a history. The law needs to make distinctions.

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