The Senate has given final approval to a bill increasing the punishment for reporting a false Amber Alert. Sen. Cliff Aldridge is the principal author of SB 371 which makes the crime a felony offense.
“We’ve had 13 Amber Alerts in Oklahoma since the system was created—four of those have been false Amber Alerts,” said Aldridge, R-Midwest City. “That’s almost 25 percent. Just like the boy who cried wolf, too many of these false reports could cause citizens not to take these reports seriously.”
Aldridge said he was also concerned that because of these false reports, law enforcement is now spending additional minutes attempting to determine whether the missing child report is valid.
“It may be just a matter of a few minutes, but when you are looking for a missing child, those minutes can be all a predator needs to get a child out of their home town or even out of state,” Aldridge said. “The longer a child is missing the greater the chance is they won’t be found before something terrible happens.”
While reporting a false Amber Alert is currently a crime in Oklahoma, it is only a misdemeanor offense. SB 371 changes the crime to a felony, with a penalty that includes a fine of $1,000 or up to a year in jail, or both.
“This is a serious crime, and that’s why we wanted to reclassify it as a felony. The Amber Alert system is too important to allow it to be compromised by false reports.”
The bill now returns to the House for a final vote. If approved, it will be sent to the governor for his consideration.