The law in North Carolina for reporting a child missing

The mother and stepfather of Madalina Cojocari — an 11-year-old girl missing from Cornelius — were arrested for failing to report the child’s disappearance to law enforcement, police have said.

Diana Cojocari, 35, and Christopher Palmiter, 60, were charged, police announced on Saturday.

Madalina was reported by her parents as missing to the Bailey Middle School resource officer on Dec. 14, officials with the school have said. But her last day at school was Nov. 22 and she was last seen that night, her mother later told officers with the Cornelius Police Department.

Generally, state law in North Carolina requires that parents and other caregivers report missing children within 24 hours of their disappearance.

The law governing the reporting of missing children in North Carolina, Caylee’s Law, was passed in 2013 in the wake of the Casey Anthony case.

Failure to report missing child law

The law says it is a Class I felony for “a parent or any other person providing care to or supervision” to someone younger than 16 years old to “knowinglyor wantonly fail to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement.”

The law defines the “disappearance of a child” as “when the parent or other person providing supervision of a child does not know the location of the child and has not had contact with the child for a 24-hour period.”

It’s a Class I misdemeanor under Caylee’s Law for “any person who reasonably suspects the disappearance of a child and who reasonably suspects that the child may be in danger” to not “report those suspicions to law enforcement within a reasonable time.”

A teacher is not required to report to police a child’s absence from school if the teacher otherwise follows the state’s compulsory attendance law.

Generally, state law covering educators’ responsibilities says a principal or “principal’s designee” should reach out to the parent or guardian when a child “has accumulated three unexcused absences in a school year,” the law states.

Once a child hits six unexcused absences, the parent or guardian will receive a letter from the school saying they could be prosecuted under the state’s attendance law. An attendance counselor will also reach out to the family.

“The attendance counselor may request that a law enforcement officer accompany him or her if the attendance counselor believes that a home visit is necessary,” the law states.

After 10 unexcused absences, the principal or “principal’s designee” can refer the case to the district attorney, county social services or a juvenile court counselor.

“Child care facility operators” and their staff are governed by a different law, the UNC School of Government explains, that says they “must immediately report a missing child to law enforcement upon learning that a child under 16 and in their care is missing.”

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