HOOVER — The Hoover City Council passed a resolution on Monday urging the Alabama Legislature to increase penalties for false reporting following the Carlee Russell hoax that occurred in the city last month.

On July 13, Russell, a 25-year-old Hoover resident, called 911 and a family member and claimed to see a baby walking along Interstate 459. The family member reported hearing a scream while on the phone with Russell, followed by silence.

For two days, officers with the Hoover Police Department, along with other law enforcement agents, searched for Russell until she showed up at her parent’s door. She initially said she had been held captive by a couple and managed to escape but later admitted to lying about her disappearance. 

Police arrested Russell two weeks later and charged her with false reporting to law enforcement authorities and false reporting an incident, two Class A misdemeanors, which can carry a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine of as much as $6,000.

Nevertheless, Hoover Police Chief Nick Derzis said he thinks two misdemeanors are not enough to answer for the toll Russell’s hoax placed on law enforcement and the community. Derzis suggested legislators should enhance penalties for falsely reporting a violent crime.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a press conference late last month that his office is also considering the possibility of more charges. He argued that false reporting is not a victimless crime as it unnecessarily uses law enforcement’s limited resources. 

State Sen. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) announced her intention to introduce a bill for the 2024 legislative session creating a new felony crime for faking an abduction. She said the bill would include strong prison sentences and mandatory restitution requirements to compensate for the cost of law enforcement resources. 

State Reps. Mike Shaw (R-Hoover) and Leigh Hulsey (R-Hoover) were present at the Hoover City Council meeting on Monday night when the council passed a resolution to support lawmakers to make false reporting a Class C felony. 

“I think they both have interest in exploring this in the legislature next year,” Hoover City Council president John Lyda said about the two lawmakers.

A Class C felony could carry up to life in prison and a fine of as much as $60,000 if combined with prior felonies. Without prior felonies, it could still carry up to 10 years in prison and $15,000 in fines.

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