A state Senate panel Monday morning advanced House-passed “Casey Anthony” legislation that would enhance the penalties for not reporting a missing child.
Senate Committee on Judiciary C approved House Bill 600 without objection after agreeing to make amendments to match the language in Senate Bill 75, which does essentially the same thing. Identical language would speed the legislation through final passage faster, said state Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe and sponsor of SB75.
Kostelka’s legislation was approved March 28 by the full Senate on a 34-0 vote and is awaiting a hearing before the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice. HB600 was approved April 19 on a vote of 93-0 by the full House.
Kostelka said that both his SB75 and HB600, sponsored by state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, address a problem that came up during the widely publicized Florida case, in which Anthony failed to report to authorities that her two-year-old daughter, Caylee, was missing for 31 days. After a six-week trial last summer, Anthony was acquitted of first degree murder but convicted of misdemeanor counts of providing false information to police officers.
Kostelka’s bill would make it a crime for a caretaker not to report within two hours after a child under the age 13 is missing for 12 hours.
Norton’s measure put the same time limit for children under the age 7, and after 24 hours missing for children between the ages of 7 and 13.
HB600 would make a caretaker convicted for failing to report the missing child results in the death or serious bodily injury liable for a 2-to-5 year prison term and a fine of up to $5,000.
SB75 would, if the missing child was found deceased, set the prison term for between two and 50 years with a fine of up to $50,000. If the child turns up alive but remains missing for more than six months or is physically or sexually abuses then the sentence would be up to 10 years in prison plus a fine.
Kostelka also said his version also dropped wording that the crime kicked in if the child was found dead or seriously injured. A former district judge, Kostelka said, the wording could force prosecutors to also prove that a defendant had the intent of killing or injuring the child.
State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, who was handling HB600 for Norton, said the language tracked the law in other states, but that she had no problems with SB75’s terms.
Dorsey-Colomb said she spoke with Norton, who was in another committee, and they agreed to draft amendments before the full Senate votes, so that the language in both bills matches.