SPRINGFIELD — A Senate panel began considering legislation Wednesday designed to tighten state laws for parents who fail to report missing children.
The proposal debated by the Senate Criminal Law Committee comes in reaction to a Florida jury’s acquittal in July of Casey Anthony, who was facing charges in the death of her daughter, Caylee.
The case, which was covered extensively in the media, triggered a number of states to begin investigating ways to legally punish parents who fail to report a missing child within a reasonable amount of time.
The proposal sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago, would make it a Class 3 felony — punishable by up to five years in prison — if a parent or guardian of a child age 12 or under fails to notify police in a timely manner if the child is missing or in potential danger of death or serious injury.
The committee delayed action on the proposal after Steve Baker of the Cook County Public Defender’s Office raised concerns that some of the language of the legislation is unconstitutionally vague.
Sen. Tom Johnson, R-West Chicago, also raised questions about whether the maximum penalties should be lessened.
Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, mocked the proposal, suggesting that the alleged crime was overblown simply because the “talking heads on TV” disagreed with the Florida jury’s not-guilty verdict.
Silverstein said he would bring the measure back to the panel after further changes are negotiated.
“I’m just trying to sharpen it up,” Silverstein said.
The proposal in Illinois mirrors efforts in several other states, including Nebraska, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Ohio. The legislation is Senate Bill 2537.