Many are outraged that a jury found Casey Anthony "not guilty". An online petition has already gathered 650,000 signatures calling for a new law - "Caylee's Law" - that would make it a criminal offense to fail to report one's own missing or dead child to law enforcement within 24 hours (as Anthony failed to do.)
State legislators around the country are eager to introduce the laws. In the version of "Caylee's Law" under consideration in Florida's legislature, parents would be guilty of a felony even if their child was later found unharmed. In the Kentucky version, parents would face between one and five years in jail.
Laws passed when emotions are high tend to be poorly thought-out. As law blogger Josh Blackman points out:
If a parent actually killed her daughter, do you think she would tell the police so as not to violate some random federal statute?
And the potential unintended consequences are endless. What if the child has a history of getting mad and running away for a day? Or a week? What if the kid sleeps over at a friend's place?
Salon.com points out that laws named after victims and passed in an emotionally charged atmosphere have a bad track record. Almost all the laws that go after sex offenders - "Megan's Law", the "Adam Walsh Act", "Dru's Law", and "Jessica's Law" - are named after victims. Yet as I've reported, those laws are responsible for locking up and stigmatizing innocent kids, like sixteen year olds who have consensual sex with a peer.
The government criminalizes too many things. Murdering your child is already against the law. So is lying to the police. We don't need more laws.