Balko: Why ‘Caylee’s Law’ Is a Bad Idea

According to Radley Balko (now of the Huffington Post) 700,000 have signed a Change.org petition calling for a law that would require parents to immediately inform the authorities when a child dies.  Balko thinks this is a really bad idea, and I agree.   This introductory paragraph is particularly on-point:

High-profile trials are anomalies. They’re about as far from the day-to-day goings on in police precincts, courtrooms, and prisons as your typical TV crime drama (the other place Americans get most of their (bad) information about the criminal justice system). Despite what much of the public seems to have taken away from these sorts of trials in recent years, the average person wrongly accused of a crime isn’t a wealthy college lacrosse player with top-notch legal representation. Prosecutors who wrongly charge people aren’t usually stripped of their law license or criminally sanctioned. (In fact, they’re rarely sanctioned at all.) Black men accused of murder aren’t typically represented by “dream teams” of the country’s best defense attorneys. And, believe it or not, if there’s a problem in the criminal justice system when it comes to children, it’s that parents and caretakers are too often overcharged in accidental deaths or as a result of bogus allegations, not that they regularly get away with murder.

One thought on “Balko: Why ‘Caylee’s Law’ Is a Bad Idea

  1. I think some kinds of “caylee’s law” would not necessarily be a bad idea.
    Misdemeanor for not reporting a missing child within a reasonably short period of time, say 48 hours–giving parent or guardian time to determine whether the child may be with a relative or friend. Felony if failure to report later becomes a dead child.

    Children do need protection from irresponsible parents and guardians, but legislators need to be careful about over criminalization.

    I object to legislators rush to judgment, making political hay out of an extremely sad–and extremely rare–situation. Hopefully by the time the Texas leg meets again in 2013 ardor will have cooled. And hopefully Gov. Perry does not seized upon this as an opportunity to make political hay for his presidential ambitions by calling a special session to deal with a harshly punitive “Caylee’s Law.” Shhh! He might not have thought about it! Fat chance!

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