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Kellyville Abduction Hoax and Oklahoma False Crime Report Laws

03-Mar-2014

Last week, Oklahoma parents and concerned citizens were on alert after a girl called 9-1-1 in Kellyville to report that she was being followed shortly before a second 9-1-1 report in which a witness said she saw a girl being forced into a pickup. The reported abduction came one week after a 10-year-old Missouri girl was abducted in front of terrified witnesses who were unable to stop the kidnapping. The girl, Hailey Owens, was found dead within a few hours of her abduction.

With Hailey's abduction on everyone's mind, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies responded quickly to the scene of the reported abduction, and investigators worked quickly to try to identify the victim, described as a girl between the ages of 14 and 17.

As investigators questioned the witness, however, her claim quickly fell apart, and as the Kellyville superintendent reported that all students were accounted for, the "witness" admitted that she made up the story.

There was no kidnapping. The cell phone that the "victim" dropped in her abduction was an inactive display model. The witness was just a girl crying wolf. Police have not reported a motive for the hoax.

A hoax of that nature can be quite expensive for law enforcement, especially when five different agencies respond: the Creek County Sheriff’s Department, Sapulpa police, Kellyville police, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) and the U.S. Marshals Service. Valuable resources which could have been necessary in other emergencies were diverted to investigate a girl's prank.

Because of the expense and the risk associated with a false crime report, state law allows for criminal prosecution of such a hoax. In Oklahoma, a person can face felony charges for making a terrorist threat or hoax, or misdemeanor charges for placing a false 9-1-1 call or false reporting of a crime.

In the Kellyville abduction hoax, the girl's false report has been turned over to the Creek County District Attorney's Office. The D.A. must decide whether or not to file charges in the case, but there are several misdemeanor offenses with which she could be charged.

Placing a false 9-1-1 call is prohibited by law in the Oklahoma Public Health and Safety Code:

"No person shall call the number nine-one-one (911) for the purpose of making a knowingly false alarm or complaint or reporting knowingly false information which could result in the dispatch of emergency services from any public agency as defined in Section 2813 of this title or Section 3 of this act. Nor shall any person call nine-one-one for nonemergency or personal use. Any person violating the provisions of this section, upon conviction, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) and by an assessment for the resulting costs of any dispatching of emergency personnel and equipment for each such offense." (63 O.S. 2819)

Under this statute, the misdemeanor fine is the least of the defendant's worries. The costs of emergency response can quickly reach astronomical proportions.

Making a false police report, including special provisions for making a false kidnapping report, may also be prosecuted under the Oklahoma Criminal Code:

"A. It shall be unlawful to willfully, knowingly and without probable cause make a false report to any person of any crime or circumstances indicating the possibility of crime having been committed, including the unlawful taking of personal property, which report causes or encourages the exercise of police action or investigation. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than ninety (90) days or by a fine of not more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment. 

B. It shall be unlawful to willfully, knowingly, and without probable cause communicate false information concerning a missing child to a law enforcement agency that causes or encourages the activation of an AMBER alert warning system. Any person convicted of violating the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one (1) year or by a fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment." (21 O.S. 589)

Reporting a false crime carries a possible jail term of 90 days, but reporting a false kidnapping carries the potential for a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Furthermore, a kidnapping hoax is prosecuted as a felony. Although it carries misdemeanor penalties, the collateral consequences of a felony conviction--loss of voting rights, loss of gun rights, exclusion from certain professional licenses, etc.--remain with a person for life.

Young people often do not realize the full impact of their whims. Calling in a bomb threat or making a false crime report will certainly get you attention, but it will not get you the attention you want. A kid trying to get the day off school or trying to exert some sense of control will soon find out that a judge will not find the prank funny at all.



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