Law

When high-profile cases hit the news, it sometimes prompts people to fight for reactionary laws. However, these don't always make sense and they don't always work, in part because they're geared around one specific situation.

Missing Child Reports

For example, a number of laws about reporting missing children hit the books after the Casey Anthony trial. Anthony had been accused of murdering her daughter, but she was acquitted. People started calling for "Caylee’s Law," which was named after her daughter, saying parents could be jailed for not reporting a missing child in 24 hours.

An "Absurd" Law

Some have called these laws absurd -- not because they don't think children should be protected, but because the laws just don't work in most cases. For one thing, there is a question of when the one-day period begins. If a child goes to a friend's house and winds up missing, was he or she missing right after leaving the house or only when the parent found out? Should parents really call the police when a child has been missing for just a half hour, just to avoid the law?

Another problem was that the law came about because people suspected Caylee had been murdered, which makes the law largely meaningless. Parents who were planning to murder children wouldn't care about it. In cases in which murderers were convicted, the extra jail time for not reporting the missing child wouldn't matter, as the sentence for murder would be much longer. In cases where parents were innocent, they could be jailed anyway, punishing them for not reporting promptly during an incredibly emotional time, as they'd just lost a child.

The only time when the law would really work would be if a person was acquitted but the public thought he or she was guilty anyway, and then the jail time for not reporting quickly could be seen as at least some punishment for the suspected murder. However, that clearly flies in the face of the legal process, as it's not common to pass laws to punish people who aren't convicted just in case they are actually guilty; people are supposed to trust the legal process to get it right most of the time.

Thinking About New Laws

This situation shows how dangerous it is to pass reactionary laws. It's critical to think carefully about each law and how it will realistically impact citizens' rights.