Introduced Version House Bill 2453 History

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H. B. 2453

          (By Delegates Marshall, Guthrie, Sumner, Barill,
D. Poling, Fragale, Hamilton and Boggs)

          [Introduced February 14, 2013; referred to the
          Committee on the Judiciary then Finance.]

A BILL to amend and reenact §15-3A-2, §15-3A-3, §15-3A-4 and §15- 3A-5 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, all relating to expanding the Amber Alert Plan to include a child reported missing regardless of circumstance.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
     That §15-3A-2, §15-3A-3, §15-3A-4 and §15-3A-5 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted, all to read as follows:
§15-3A-2. Findings and determinations relative to "Amber's Plan".
     (a) The Legislature finds and determines that:
     (1) Public alerts can be one of the most effective tools in combating child abductions and facilitating the safe return of children missing regardless of reason;
     (2) Law-enforcement officers and other professionals specializing in the field of abducted and missing children agree that the most critical moments in the search for an abducted or otherwise missing child are the first few hours immediately following the abduction or discovery that a child is missing, asserting that if a child is not found within two to four hours, it is unlikely that the abducted child will be found alive or that a child missing but not abducted will return safely;
     (3) The rapid dissemination of information, including a description of the abducted or missing child, details of the abduction, abductor and vehicle involved, or other circumstances surrounding a child gone missing, to the citizens of the affected community and region is, therefore, critical;
     (4) Alerted to an abduction or the report of a child missing, the citizenry become an extensive network of eyes and ears serving to assist law enforcement in quickly locating and safely recovering the child;
     (5) The most effective method of immediately notifying the public of a child abduction or report of a missing child is through the broadcast media; and
     (6) That in addition to public alerts, other tools allowing rapid response and identification of the movements of persons suspected in a child abduction or in connection with a child being missing require the use of all forms of developing technologies to assist law enforcement in rapid response to these alerts and is an additional tool for assuring the well being and safety of our children. Thus, the use of traffic video recording and monitoring devices for the purpose of surveillance of a suspect vehicle adds yet another set of eyes to assist law enforcement and aid in the safe recovery of the child.
     (b) The Legislature declares that given the successes other states and regions have experienced in using broadcast media alerts to quickly locate and safely recover abducted children and children reported missing regardless of reason, and, with the recent development of highway video recording and monitoring systems, it is altogether fitting and proper, and within the public interest, to establish these programs for West Virginia.
§15-3A-3. Establishment of "Amber's Plan".
     (a) The secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety shall establish "Amber's Plan", a program authorizing the broadcast media, upon notice from the State Police, to transmit an emergency alert to inform the public of a child abduction or that a child is reported missing. The program shall be a voluntary, cooperative effort between state and local law- enforcement agencies and the broadcast media.
     (b) The secretary shall notify the broadcast media serving the State of West Virginia of the establishment of "Amber's Plan" and invite their voluntary participation.
§15-3A-4. Activation of Amber Alert.
     The following criteria shall be met before the State Police activate the Amber Alert:
     (1) The child is
          (A) Believed to be abducted; or
(B) Has been reported to the State Police or other appropriate law-enforcement agency as believed to be missing, regardless of circumstance, and the missing child is or is believed to be at a location that cannot be determined by an individual familiar with the missing child; and
     (2) The child is seventeen years of age or younger;
     (3) The child may be in danger of death or serious bodily injury; and
     (4) There is sufficient information available to indicate that an Amber Alert would assist in locating the child.
§15-3A-5. Notice to participating media; broadcast of alert.
     (a) The participating media shall voluntarily agree, upon notice from the State Police, to transmit emergency alerts to inform the public of a child abduction or report of a missing child that has occurred within their broadcast service regions.
     (b) The alerts shall be read after a distinctive sound tone and a statement notifying that the broadcast is an abducted or missing child alert. The alerts shall be broadcast as often as possible, pursuant to guidelines established by the West Virginia Broadcasters' Association, for the first three hours. After the initial three hours, the alert shall be rebroadcast at such intervals as the investigating authority, the State Police and the participating media deem appropriate.
     (c) The alerts shall include a description of the child, such details of the abduction and abductor or circumstances surrounding the disappearance as may be known, and such other information as the State Police may deem pertinent and appropriate. The State Police shall in a timely manner update the broadcast media with new information when appropriate concerning the abduction or the disappearance of a missing child.
     (d) The alerts also shall provide information concerning how those members of the public who have information relating to the abduction or disappearance of a missing child may contact the State Police or other appropriate law-enforcement agency.
     (e) Concurrent with the notice provided to the broadcast media, the State Police shall also notify the Department of Transportation, the Division of Highways and the West Virginia turnpike commission Parkways, Economic Development and Tourism Authority of the "Amber Alert" so that the department and the affected authorities may, if possible, through the use of their variable message signs, inform the motoring public that an "Amber Alert" is in progress and may provide information relating to the abduction and how motorists may report any information they have to the State Police or other appropriate law-enforcement agency.
     (f) The alerts shall terminate upon notice from the State Police.
     (g) The secretary, with the assistance of the participating broadcast media, shall develop and undertake a campaign to inform law-enforcement agencies about "Amber's Plan" and the emergency alert program established under this article.

     NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to expand coverage under the Amber Alert Plan which currently applies only to children believed to have been abducted. The bill would include children reported to law-enforcement authorities as missing, regardless of circumstance.
     Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.
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