Every US Law Named After A Victim And What It Does

Laws named after victims remain a source of debate. While plenty of brutal crimes occur within any given year, only a very small percentage lead to changes to our legal system. When it comes to US laws created because of crimes, public outrage is key. Particularly horrifying kidnappings, murders, and suicides receive an unusual amount of press coverage, often resulting in the widespread backlash needed to pressure politicians into reforming the legal system. 

The crimes that resulted in new laws were already illegal when they were committed. The resulting legislation is usually seen as closing a loophole or addressing a unique aspect of the crime. However, there is much public debate on whether such laws are ethical or effective. People who have laws named after them are honored and memorialized, on the one hand, but critics argue such laws are often too reactionary to be truly effective. 

If you're unsure where you stand on the issue, browse this list. It will help you develop a more detailed understanding of how and why some crimes lead to new laws. 

  • Kari's Law

    The Victim's Story:

    In a Marshall, Texas, motel room on December 1, 2013, Kari Dunn took her three children to see her estranged husband, Brad. Kari had begun the process of ending the 10 year marriage and was already seeing someone new two weeks earlier. The separated couple went into the motel bathroom to talk, but Brad instead pulled out a knife and stabbed Kari 21 times while their nine year old daughter struggled to call 911.

    The motel phone required users to dial a nine before the phone number, so the young girl was unable to summon police to the scene of her mother's murder.

    What The Law Does:

    First enacted in Texas and then signed into federal law by President Donald Trump in February 2018, Kari's Law makes it mandatory for multi-line telephone systems to have a way to call 911 that bypasses any normally required codes prior to dialing.  

  • Lauren's Law
    Photo: WGN TV

    Lauren's Law

    The Victim's Story:

    Illinois high school senior Lauren Laman was 18 years old when she collapsed during drill team practice in February 2008. A heart condition called mitral valve prolapse that caused one of her heart valves to improperly close at times contributed to the sudden cardiac arrest that led to her death. It took 13 minutes for medical personnel to arrive and take Laman to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. 

    Laman's father, George, believed that the presence of someone who could have performed CPR or administered a shock to his daughter's heart with an automated external fibrillator would have saved her life.

    What The Law Does:

    Passed in the Illinois General Assembly in June 2014, the act requires schools properly train and educate students and faculty in the use of CPR and automated external defibrillators in the course of regular curriculum. Students without parental approval are excused from the requirement.

  • Pamela's Law

    The Victim's Story:

    Pamela Schmidt arrived at her boyfriend Bill Parisio's home on March 12, 2011, to end the relationship. Parisio had been battling drug addiction for years and Schmidt had reportedly grown tired of trying to help him. After the breakup, Schmidt slept in the finished basement of the Cranford, New Jersey home and planned to leave in the morning. 

    That night, Parisio used a 12-pound dumbbell to beat Schmidt before strangling her. In the three months prior to the murder, Parisio had been using bath salts - a then-legal substance similar to meth that could be purchased in smoke shops and convenience stores. 

    What The Law Does:

    Signed into law in August 2013, Pamela's Law made it illegal to purchase or sell the chemicals used in the production of bath salts. The drug was also designated as a controlled substance in New Jersey, like cannabis or cocaine.

  • Caylee's Law

    The Victim's Story:

    Two year old Caylee Anthony was missing for a month before her mother, Casey Anthony, reported her as missing to law enforcement in July 2008. Caylee's remains were subsequently found near the Anthony home, prompting a trial in which Casey was the prime suspect. The trial garnered media and public attention for Casey's partying during the month her daughter was missing. 

    Casey was acquitted of the murder charges and found guilty of lying to the police. The public was outraged that a two year old girl could be undocumented as missing for a month with little to no repercussions for her mother. 

    What The Law Does:

    Caylee's Law requires parents or guardians to report a child missing within 24 hours of their disappearance. It also requires the death of a child to be reported within the hour. Individuals failing to adhere to these standards face felony charges with jail time that varies in the states that have adopted the law. 

  • The Matthew Shepard Act

    The Victim's Story:

    Matthew Shepard was a 21 year old, openly gay man attending college at the University of Wyoming in 1998. While hanging out in a bar on the night of October 6 and through the early hours of October 7, 1998, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney approached Shepard. The three men talked and then Shepard willingly left with the pair in McKinney's father's truck. 

    McKinney and Henderson drove Shepard to an isolated spot where they pistol whipped his skull, kicked him in the genitalia, tied him to a split rail fence, and left him to die. Shepard was discovered 15 to 18 hours later by a cyclist and then taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries after four or five days

    McKinney and Henderson were both sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison.

    What The Law Does:

    Suspecting Shepard's assault was a hate crime based on his sexual orientation, the Matthew Shepard Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009. The law provides monetary and educational resources to law enforcement agencies for the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. It also makes it illegal to attempt or cause harm, injury, or death to individuals under one of six protected classes. 

  • Leandra's Law

    The Victim's Story:

    Carmen Huertas was drunk from consuming cognac at a family party before driving seven 11-year-old girls to a sleepover in October of 2009. After allegedly taunting the girls with, "Raise your hand if you think we're going to crash," Huertas drove onto the highway, lost control, and flipped the 1998 Mercury Sable multiple times.

    Three of the girls were ejected from the vehicle. One girl, Leandra  Rosado, was killed within moments of the impact while the other girls all suffered varying injuries.

    What The Law Does:

    Leandra's Law went into effect on December 18, 2009, and increases the possible prison sentence for drunk drivers that kill or seriously injure children under the age of 16 in their vehicle. Convicted drivers are required to install an ignition interlock "breathalyzer" device at their own expense on their vehicles and will carry that restriction on their driver's license. Such devices lock the car until the driver breathes into them to prove their blood alcohol levels are safe to drive.