Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz is advocating for the passage of Caylee's Law, which would make it a felony for parents or guardians who do not report a missing child to authorities in a timely manner. The commissioner sponsored a local resolution, urging U.S Congress and the Florida Legislature to enact the law; the Miami-Dade County Commission approved Diaz's legislation on September 1, 2011.
Caylee's Law is named after Caylee Anthony, the 2-year-old Orlando toddler who went missing in 2008. Her mother, Casey Anthony, was charged with the child's death and providing false information to law enforcement after she had failed to report her daughter missing for a month. The trial and controversial not guilty verdict that followed this year triggered a national debate.
As a result of the trial, Florida Representative Bill Hager (R-Boca Raton) drafted proposed legislation (HB 49) a felony for a caregiver to fail to report to law enforcement within 48 hours that a child 12 years-old or younger in their care is missing. In addition, caregivers must also report the death of a child in a timely manner. Any caregiver found providing false information to authorities during a missing person or criminal investigation involving a child will also be charged with a felony. Other Florida representatives are also supporting this law, including Representative Jose Felix Diaz (R - Miami) who submitted HB 37 with similar provisions to HB 49, and Senator Anitere Flores (R - District 38), who filed a similar Caylee's Law bill earlier this week in the Senate, SB 148.
"The reason Caylee's story caught attention on a national scale was the blatant disregard of the mother to even report that her daughter was missing. When details emerged from the defense that Casey Anthony knew her daughter was dead and led police on a wild goose chase, I think people were just up in arms. How does a child just disappear and die, and no one is held accountable?" said Commissioner Diaz. "Caylee's Law does just that, places the accountability on the parent or guardian to report that a minor in their care is missing or deceased. We cannot allow something like what happened to Caylee to happen to another child."
Similar bills have been proposed in other states. There is also a national online petition in favor of Caylee's Law addressed to the President and Congress; over 1.2 million people have already signed it.
"I encourage not only our State legislators to get behind this law, but also our community. Please sign this petition and let our lawmakers know that missing children need a voice," said Commissioner Diaz.
A copy of the petition can be found online. Residents can also go to Commissioner Diaz's Facebook page to find the petition.