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How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Fight Charges for the Failure to Report the Disappearance of a Child Under N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.3—Caylee’s Law?

Individuals charged and convicted of crimes involving a minor or child frequently experience significant social stigma and are provided little sympathy for their actions. Unfortunately, in some cases, potential jurors can hold these views before a conviction ever occurs. Thus, if a criminal defendant does not exercise a judicious understanding of potential biases held by members of the jury pool, he or she may be facing an uphill battle against an aggressive and experienced state prosecutor.

The criminal defense lawyers of the Law Firm of John J. Zarych are aggressive and strategic criminal defense lawyers. Firm founder, John Zarych, has more than 30 years of criminal defense experience that he can put to work for you. If you have been charged with a crime in Atlantic, Cape May, or Ocean County call (609) 616-4956 or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.

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What Does the Text of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.3 Prohibit?

The text of N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1.3 concerns a parent’s, caregiver, or other responsible party’s failure to take action following the disappearance of a child. The statute states that:

  1. A parent, guardian, or other person with legal custody of a child who knew or should have known of the disappearance of a child for which that parent, guardian, or another person is responsible who fails to report the missing child to the appropriate law enforcement agency within 24 hours shall be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree.
  2. For the purposes of this section, a “missing child” means a person 13 years of age or younger whose whereabouts are not currently known.

Thus, under the statute, a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, teacher, babysitter, or any other party with legal custody over a child is required to take certain actions when he or she knows or should know that the child has disappeared or otherwise cannot be found. The parent does not have to suspect that the child was kidnapped or taken for illegitimate or improper purposes, the child merely needs to go missing. If this occurs concerning any child age 13 or younger, the parent is obligated to report the missing child to the police within 24 hours or face the potential penalty of a fourth-degree crime.

How can a New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer Defend Me from a Failure to Report the Disappearance of a Child Jury Charge?

A criminal defense lawyer can force a state prosecutor to prove each and every element of a criminal charge beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt. When it comes to criminal charges under NJSA 2C:12-1.3 also known as Caylee’s law, the state must typically prove four independent elements. These four elements that must be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt are:

  1. The state must show that a child has disappeared. An individual is considered a child when he or she is 13 years or younger. The child is considered missing or disappeared when his or her whereabouts are unknown.
  2. The next element that must be proven is that the defendant accused of the violation of Caylee’s law was a qualifying parent or guardian.
  3. The third element the state prosecutor must prove is that the parent, guardian, or caregiver knew or should have known that that the child had disappeared. In New Jersey, a person is typically held to “know” something or to have knowledge when he or she actual knows or when there is a high probability that he or she was aware of the fact.
  4. The final element the state must prove is that the accused individual “knowingly” failed to report the child’s disappearance to the police or another appropriate law enforcement agency within 24 hours of becoming aware of the disappearance. A person is typically held to have acted knowingly when he or she is aware that certain conduct is practically certain to bring about a result.

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It is important to understand that since knowledge is an intangible condition of the mind that cannot be measured, the state will typically make use of circumstantial, indirect evidence to prove the claim. Furthermore, the state does not have to show 100% conclusive proof that you had this knowledge. The state simply needs to show that the weight of the available evidence is beyond a shadow of a doubt As such, it is essential that your defense strategy takes this into account and addresses these potential legal problems in an effective manner.

Work With Aggressive and Strategic New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you are facing criminal charges under Caylee’s law, you are subject to serious punishments. The state prosecutor is an experienced attorney and he or she will not hesitate to exploit your relative lack of legal experience to his or her advantage. When facing serious charges of this type, you need a criminal defense lawyer who can leverage his or her experience to protect you from the full force of criminal penalties. The lawyers of the Law Firm of John J. Zarych can fight to protect you from a criminal conviction. To schedule a free and confidential consultation call (609) 616-4956 today.