If you have a Facebook, you’ve probably seen the Change.org petition for ‘Caylee’s Law’. The federal law would charge parents with a felony if 1) they did not report a missing child within 24 hours; or 2) did not report the death of a child within one hour. As of July 11th, the petition had more than 700,000 signatures and is the fastest growing petition on the website’s history. People are, rightfully, outraged after not receiving the anticipated GUILTY verdict in last weeks trial. Petitioners believe that the movement for ‘Caylee’s Law’ will create new protective laws and prevent such atrocities from happening again.
All of this sounds logical, yes?
Yes, it does SOUND logical, but when we demand that our lawmakers take swift action, laws are created in an inappropriate and haphazard manner, subsequently making good intentions have bad repercussions on down the road. Laws as a result of tragedy end up so vaguely constructed that they can actually set the bar higher for the next similar case when the incident may not be 100% applicable. For example, what if a child died while sleeping? Would the 1 hour still apply? Or how about an issue with overcompliance? Parents may end up contacting authorities immediately in the case of a disappearance when it may not be necessary, draining resources and exhausting law enforcement. Not to mention that there are still ways around these time restrictions, like lying.
Think about some other tragedy-induced laws:
- The USA PATRIOT Act
- The Brady Bill
- Georgia HB101, now known as the Better Bicycling Act (Google this: It’s actually quite comical. Law makers created this legislation in response to the death of a cyclist who was hit and killed by a passing car (not the comical part, obviously). The law states that vehicles must leave 3 feet when passing a cyclist now. Among many shortcomings, most importantly, how will this be enforced unless another biker is hit?)
- The threats of the Obama administration on gun laws after the tragedy in Tuscon.
These laws don’t PREVENT anything, they just punish the offender AFTER THE FACT, which I know people want after the Casey Anthony trial. But again, people wanted to see GUILTY pasted across Ms. Anthony’s forehead for murder. Would ‘guilty’ on a formal failure to report a death verdict have satiated the anger of the trial followers? I don’t really think so.
We have learned time and time again that anger doesn’t create good public policy. It creates laws that leave too much room for interpretation and judicial activism….and that is not what we need.