Today State Representative Edward Coppinger filed legislation that would make it a felony if a parent didn't report their child missing within 48 hours.
The legislation is called "An Act Relative to the Timely Reporting of Missing Children, or Caylee’s Law." Several other Massachusetts politicians sponsored similar laws today, but Coppinger's was the first.
The legislation (that had 15 bipartisan sponsors as of 3:20 p.m.) would create criminal statutes for parents or guardians who fail to disclose a missing child, cover up the death of a child or deliberately mislead police officers investigating a missing child.
“After watching the events of the Casey Anthony trial, I was shocked that people who covered up the death of a child could get away without any real punishment,” said Coppinger, D-West Roxbury. “It doesn’t make sense to me that a parent or guardian can get away with not reporting a child to be missing or not reporting the death of a child.”
Coppinger said he thinks Anthony is guilty, "I do. That’s neither here or there. If (Casey's Law) were in place were she would've been found guilty of four counts of lying to police and guilty of not reporting a child."
The West Roxbury rep said he and fellow House members discussed how there are laws that require you to report if you're missing a firearm, but not for a child.
"In the banking industry if you lose banking info on a computer you have to report it in a timely fashion as a result, or face repercussions. But your own child, you don’t need to report. That’s kind of crazy. People lose their dogs for 24 hours and they put signs up on telephone poles, but not a child. It's kind of sad that you need to institute this law."
Coppinger himself, a first-term state rep, has four daughters of his own. "I honestly couldn’t fathom two hours if I had no idea where they are. Our 14-year-old on is getting more freedom with friends and she says we text her too much."
The newly filed bill would make the failure to report a child as missing after 48 hours without contact a felony punishable of no more than five years in jail. Also if the child “suffers great bodily harm, permanent disability, permanent disfigurement or death while missing,” the parent or guardian could be punishable no more than 15 years in jail.
The legislation also creates criminal statutes for failing to report the death of a child to a law enforcement agency or emergency medical personnel within two hours of a child’s death. Also failing to report the location of a child’s corpse two hours after that child’s death could be punished by up to 15 years in jail through the proposed legislation.
“It is my hope that these new criminal statutes never have to be applied to any parent or any guardian in Massachusetts, but if there is ever any case in which a parent willfully and deliberately fails to report a missing child, fails to report the death of a child or fails to report the location of a child’s corpse, they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Coppinger.
“Although the tragic death of Caylee Anthony helped influence why I wanted to file this legislation, she is sadly not the only case of a child not being reported missing or dead," said Coppinger. "The recent story of the young boy in Maine, Camden Pierce Hughes, who was found dumped in a field first inspired me to explore this kind of legislation. Neither of these two children should have suffered this fate. I hope that this legislation will help prevent cases like this in the future.”
The bill would also create criminal statutes for people who knowingly and willfully mislead investigators of a missing person. Coppinger wants to create especially strict statutes for a parent or a guardian who knowingly and willfully gives false information to law enforcement officers conducting a missing person investigation involving a minor child in his or her care.
“It is imperative that we send the signal that Massachusetts will not tolerate the case of a parent or guardian deliberately failing to report a missing child, deliberately covering up the death of a child or knowingly and willfully misleading an investigation into a missing child. It is my hope that law enforcement officials should never have to resort using these new criminal statutes, but we should give them all the tools necessary to appropriately prosecute parents or guardians who so willfully endanger their children.”
The following are co-sponsors of the bill:
Martin J. Walsh
James J. Dwyer
Michael D. Brady
Linda Dean Campbell
Linda Dorcena Forry
Patricia A. Haddad
Louis L. Kafka
D-Worcester and Norfolk
John W Scibak
Frank I. Smizik
Todd M. Smola