‘Duty to Report Disappearance of a Child’ Bill Passes Judiciary Committee

Rep. Karen Boback (R-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Wyoming) announced the passage of her legislation by the House Judiciary Committee that would require a report about a missing child be made within 24 hours after his or her whereabouts became unknown. The bill does offer protection for guardians who have a legitimate reason to believe the child is safe with someone else.

“This bill was a response to the highly publicized trial of Casey Anthony. Ms. Anthony was acquitted of the murder of her child, even though the evidence showed she failed to report the child missing for nearly a month,” said Boback. “The legislation is written to ensure a parent could not be prosecuted for an innocent mistake, but only under circumstances where the conduct is completely unjustifiable.”

House Bill 488 would require proof that a parent’s silence exhibited a reckless disregard for a risk of harm to a child, or for the child’s health, safety or welfare under the circumstances. The requirement that the parent act with recklessness would, for example, protect a divorced parent who may not have knowledge of their child’s whereabouts, but who has a reason to believe the child is with the other parent or a friend.

The duty will extend to natural parents as well as stepparents, adoptive parents, guardians and custodians. A violation would be a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to seven years
confinement and $15,000 fine.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.