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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 21, 2018 12:10 PM
From: Representative Karen Boback
To: All House members
Subject: Failure to Report Missing Child
Last session, I introduced House Bill 1210 to create a new crime “Duty to Report
Disappearance of a Child”. 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. This appalling fact outraged the citizens of Florida and across the nation, particularly when it became clear that there was no law in Florida under which she could be prosecuted for that reckless misconduct. Many Pennsylvanians joined the furor and asked whether that kind of conduct could go unpunished in the Commonwealth.

I plan to reintroduce HB 1210 this session. 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. It will require a report to be made about a missing child within 24 hours after his or her whereabouts became unknown, but will also require proof that 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 will, 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 at a friend’s. That would not amount to recklessness even if, in hindsight, the belief could be considered unreasonable.

The duty will extend to natural parents as well as stepparents, adoptive parents, guardians and custodians and apply whenever a child’s whereabouts are unknown for more than 24 hours.

A violation would be a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to seven years
confinement and $15,000 fine.

I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this legislation. Thank you for your interest and

Introduced as HB486