Steven J. Richardson
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Bankruptcy, Collections, Student Loan, DUI and Traffic Court attorney in Woodbury, NJ.
I posted earlier today about a proposed "Caylee's Law" in New Jersey that would specify when a parent must report a child missing and increase significantly the penalties for failing to do so. This is not the first time, however, that our state has reacted to a tragedy involving children by enacting legislation to try and prevent it from happening again. Megan's Law led a national trend for a sex offender registry following the murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka. But the question then becomes, in this case, do we really need this law or do the current laws suffice?

One of the bill's proposers in the Assembly, Domenick DiCicco, answers these questions "yes" and "no." We need it, he says, because the current law does not specify a time frame for the reporting, and does not carry significant enough penalties. The question becomes though, if that is the case, how long was our current law on the books and why does it take a tragedy like this to call our attention to it?

An editorial in the Gloucester County Times on July 14, 2011, questions the need for the law. It asks why the parent or responsible adult could not be charged with child neglect or abuse. It goes on to say that,

"Outrage at a sensational trial verdict in another state is not a good reason to enact a law. A good reason, in this case, would be unbiased assessments from police and child- protection agencies stating that Caylee's Law would aid in prompt searches for missing children. In the first hours and days after a child's disappearance, that always must be the first priority."

This seems to be a sensible and measured response to the situation. Although NJ may have felt that its current law was sufficient prior to the Casey Anthony case, current events would sensibly dictate a need for its review and input from experts. However, this should really be done prior to enacting new laws with significant penalties. If that review reveals the need for new laws, then fine. But if they do not . . .

What do you think? Does New Jersey need a Caylee's Law in light of what is already on the books? Should a calm and reasoned investigation be conducted first before rushing to create new laws? Please add your opinion by posting a comment below.

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