MONTGOMERY — On Wednesday, the Alabama Senate passed House Bill 82 to enhance the penalties for falsely reporting a crime to law enforcement.

Currently, false reporting of a crime is a Class A misdemeanor. House Bill 82 increases the penalties for false reporting of a crime that poses imminent danger to a person or the public by making it a Class C felony. The bill also expands the ability of the state to seek restitution from local, state and federal authorities for the costs incurred while investigating false reports. 

The bill was sponsored by State Rep. Mike Shaw (R-Hoover) and was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives in February. State Sen. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) carried the bill in the Senate where it was also passed unanimously. 

The bill is inspired by the Carlee Russell abduction hoax that garnered national attention last year.

“It was a big news story, but it kind of highlighted an issue. If somebody wants to make a fraudulent call like this it can have a great impact on the community," Shaw told 1819 News on Wednesday. "Both the safety and welfare of the people out there searching, the expense of it with police and fire having to take needed resources, but also it just kind of hurts the fabric of the community. I worry about the next person who really does have a problem. You know, people go out there to help and to search and then they find out the whole thing was a hoax. It hurts our community in a lot of ways. This law will hopefully put a little more teeth into the prosecution.”

The bill now goes to the governor for her signature.

“Last summer, Alabama’s law enforcement around the state were exploited, and local communities terrorized, when an individual falsely reported being kidnapped. After an immediate multi-agency response, the frightened public was outraged to learn that the entire situation was a hoax. This action cost taxpayers millions of dollars and took away critical resources from those who desperately needed law enforcement support,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said. “The goal of this legislation is to create a deterrent for those who blatantly lie in reporting a crime, so that those who do, experience the full force of the law. I applaud the Legislature for listening and working with law enforcement on this issue and hope to refocus our attention on those who are victims of crime in the short-term and long-term.”

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