KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday honoring the missing toddler out of Sullivan County.
As the search continues for Evelyn Boswell, state representatives filed a new amendment dubbed Evelyn’s Law.
WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel spoke with the sponsors and broke down what they hope to accomplish with their new legislation.
The new measure proposed would increase penalties for parents or guardians who fail to report missing children. The three sponsoring lawmakers all represent the Sullivan County area, where the AMBER Alert originated.
“It was just something we felt like hopefully could make a difference, and made us feel like we were involved to try to help in some form, fashion to help find this young girl,” said Rep. John Crawford.
“Our community is in shock that something like this could happen at home. Not close to home, but at home,” said Rep. Timothy Hill.
Hill explained the legislation came after a phone call with Sullivan County’s sheriff.
“My question to him was simply what tool in the toolbox can we add to have made this possibly have gone better? And without hesitation, he shared with me what Evelyn’s Law is,” Hill said. “If a parent or legal guardian does not alert the proper authorities within 48 hours of a child going missing, then it is a Class A misdemeanor, and if in the event that it is aggravated, that is a different charge. The individual could be faced with a Class C felony.”
“We started behind the clock and it really has made the investigation a lot harder to deal with, so hopefully we can prevent that in the future,” Crawford said.
The sponsors are not only looking ahead to future scenarios but also calling attention to and honoring the situation currently gripping their hometown.
“We feel very close to it because it’s happened in our area, Sullivan County, but this has affected people all over the state, all over the country. There’s a lot of prayers going up for the young girl, and hopefully, we can see a good outcome from this,” Crawford said.
As a result of Evelyn’s Law, failure to report or delaying a report while demonstrating a reckless disregard for the safety of a child will now be considered a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, a fine of up to $2,500 or both.
If a parent or guardian fails to report or delay reporting with reckless disregard resulting in serious bodily harm or death, they will now be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by three to fifteen years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.