State Sen. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) announced on Monday that she will introduce legislation in the 2024 regular session that creates a new felony crime for faking an abduction.
Weaver has already begun consultations with state and local prosecutors, law enforcement officials and the Alabama Legislative Services Agency to craft the bill.
The bill is inspired by the recent Carlee Russell abduction hoax that garnered national attention last month.
On Thursday, July 13, 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.
Last week, Russell turned herself over to police after she admitted she had fabricated the entire event.
Because of restrictions under current Alabama law, Russell has been charged only with misdemeanor false reporting of an incident and misdemeanor false reporting to law enforcement.
Weaver said her bill would include strong prison sentences and mandatory restitution requirements for the total cost of resources expended by law enforcement agencies during a hoax abduction.
"This fictitious kidnapping caused fear and shock not only throughout the legislative district I represent, but also throughout our state and nation," Weaver said. "Individuals who concoct and carry out sham kidnappings and lead our law enforcement officers on wild goose chases must be given severe penalties for their deceptive actions."
She continued, "During the recent hoax carried out by Carlethia Russell, significant monetary and human resources were used at the local, state, and federal levels to resolve this fictitious event, and numerous volunteers donated their time in record-breaking heat to search for the reported victim. I am proud to support our law enforcement officials and the good people of our communities by sponsoring this bill, which will bring higher punishment for those who intentionally report false abductions to law enforcement and waste precious resources."
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