MONTGOMERY — Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation on Wednesday enhancing penalties for falsely reporting a crime alleging an individual or the public is in imminent danger.

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. The bill sponsored by State Sen. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) 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 would also require someone convicted of false reporting, where the false report results in an emergency response or investigation of the commission of false reporting, be ordered to pay restitution for the false report.

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

"We believe that it's a fair place to start," Weaver said in committee on Wednesday. "We don't believe that the misdemeanor is the appropriate punishment for this. We hope that with a law like this that this will deter others from what happened in Hoover.

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.

The bill now heads to the full Senate for their consideration.

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