MONTGOMERY — A bill inspired by the faked kidnapping of Carlee Russell passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Under existing law, falsely reporting or causing the transmission of a false report of a crime, or relating to a crime, to law enforcement authorities is a Class A misdemeanor. House Bill 82 (HB82) would provide that falsely reporting, or causing the transmission of a false report of a crime is a Class C felony if the false report alleges imminent danger to a person or the public.

The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Mike Shaw (R-Hoover), who presented the bill before the House.

The House Judiciary Committee amended an earlier version of the bill that included the following provision:

“The term of imprisonment imposed for a felony violation of this section shall be served day for day and shall not be reduced or suspended by any provision of law.”

In addition to the felony charges, HB82 would require those falsely reporting a crime to pay restitution.

“A person convicted of a violation of this section, where the false report results in an emergency response or investigation of the commission of false reporting, shall be ordered to pay restitution for the expenses incurred by any local, state, or federal law enforcement or assisting governmental agency. Expenses include any reasonable costs directly incurred, including the costs of police, firefighting, and emergency medical services, and the personnel costs of those persons who respond to the incident.”

The bill received moderate commentary from House members, eventually passing unanimously, 103-0.

In July, Russell, of Hoover, called 911 reporting a toddler walking along Interstate 459. After officers responded to the call, they found her car but no sign of Russell. Later, she talked to a family member after hanging up with 911 and told them about the baby on the interstate.

A massive 49-hour search for Russell ended when she arrived at her parents' house in Hoover. She was then taken to the hospital for evaluation and later released. During that time, Russell claimed she had been abducted but managed to escape.

Eventually, Russell turned herself over to police after she admitted she had fabricated the entire event.

Attorney General Steve Marshall released a statement praising the bill’s passage.

“In Alabama, we respect law enforcement,” Marshall said.  “After what happened in Hoover last summer, it was time to reassess our false reporting law to ensure that it adequately deters hoaxes that unnecessarily frighten the public and result in agency-wide responses. When so many of our cities are struggling to provide adequate public safety resources, the men and women in blue must not be distracted with nonsense that takes their focus away from the people who really need help.”

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