SPRINGFIELD — Illinois lawmakers have joined a growing stampede to tighten state laws for parents who fail to report missing children.
At least three legislative measures introduced in the Capitol in recent days are part of a national reaction to the high-profile acquittal of Casey Anthony in connection with the death of her daughter, Caylee.
“There is a groundswell of anger over the tragedy,” said state Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria, who said his office received 400 emails calling for action after Anthony was set free.
Illinois joins Nebraska, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Ohio in looking for a legal way to punish parents who fail to report a missing child within a reasonable amount of time.
House Bill 3799, for example, would make it a Class 4 felony — punishable by up to three years in prison — if a parent or guardian of a child age 12 or under fails to immediately notify police of if the child is missing for more than 24 hours.
House Bill 3800 contains similar provisions, but adds extra penalties if a parent doesn’t notify police of the death of a child under the age of 18 within an hour of finding out about the death.
Leitch, who is among a handful of lawmakers co-sponsoring the legislation, said he wants to hear from experts whether the law should cover children under the age of 13 or if it should only pertain to younger children.
“We need to be sure to craft something that works and makes sense,” Leitch said.
A third proposal, House Bill 3801, mirrors the other proposals, but
includes a provision allowing for a delay in reporting if there is an act of God, an act of war or an inability by the police to accept a missing child or dead child report.
State Rep. Jason Barickman recently asked his constituents for their opinions on whether a similar type of law is needed in Illinois.
He said the response was mixed, with some opponents saying no law can create a good or bad parent.
Barickman, R-Champaign, said lawmakers should move slowly in responding to the Anthony verdict and make sure existing state laws don’t already address some of the concerns.
“I continue to believe that we need to be extremely cautious before the state places a mandate on Illinois parents,” Barickman said.
Lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to Springfield until late October.