Understanding Evelyn’s Law in Tennessee, Impacts Penalties Against Parents

Posted by Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC on February 18, 2021

Tennessee lawmakers are once again asking for support for House Bill 0384, commonly referred to as “Evelyn Boswell’s Law.”

Evelyn’s Law would require parents of missing children to report the child as missing to either a law enforcement agency or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) within a reasonable time that does not exceed the 24-hour period. The law would apply to a child 12-years-old or younger.

If passed, the law would charge parents who do not meet reporting requirements with a failure to report a missing child charge, which is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a sentence of up to three months imprisonment, a fine, or both.

Under HB 0384, parents may defend themselves from prosecution if they have made “reasonably diligent efforts to verify the whereabouts and safety of the minor child during the period.”

In addition, anyone who falsely and knowingly accuses a parent of failing to report a child as missing can be charged with false reports and could be fined.

If passed, Evelyn’s Law would take effect July 1, 2021. You can read the full bill, here.

The Basis For Evelyn’s Law

The need for Evelyn’s Law comes after the disappearance and murder of 15-month-old Evelyn Boswell who disappeared in February 2020. Her disappearance was reported by a family member. The child’s remains were later found in Blountville, Tennessee on property belonging to a family member of Boswell’s mother Megan.

Megan Boswell has been indicted on 19 charges including felony murder and child abuse regarding her daughter’s murder. Some family members stated they had not seen the child since December 2019, three months from her reported disappearance.

An obvious case of child abuse and neglect, lawmakers are rallying behind Evelyn’s story to ensure this does not happen again to another child.

Current Tennessee law has two standards for reporting a child as missing:

  • AMBER Alert
  • Endangered Child Alert (ECA)

AMBER Alert: The TBI reserves AMBER Alerts for the most serious of missing children cases, in which law enforcement believes that a child is in imminent danger. In AMBER Alerts, the TBI utilizes TEMA, the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters, the National Weather Service, TDOT, and others to send the message of vital information about the missing child and, if available, the suspect, vehicle, and direction of travel.

To issue an AMBER Alert, the following criteria must be met:

  • 1. The person is 17 years of age or younger, and;
  • 2. The child is in imminent danger of bodily injury or death, and;
  • 3. There is a description of the child, the abductor, or vehicle, and;
  • 4. On a request from another state for activation, there is a direct and identified nexus to the state of Tennessee and that information is conveyed to TBI at the time of the request.

Endangered Child Alert (ECA): This type of alert for missing children cases is used when there is a concern for the child’s safety.

In issuing an Endangered Child Alert, eligible for individuals 20 years old and younger, the TBI notifies local media – in specific regions of the state – about the missing child, along with any additional available information. The TBI also uses social media to further share the relevant information.

As a parent, you have a duty to protect your child. But when your child goes missing, you also have a responsibility to notify the authorities.

If you suspect child abuse or domestic violence is happening to a child, or your own child at the hands of a family member in Nashville, Springfield, or anywhere in Middle Tennessee, know that you are not alone. Contact the domestic violence lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC immediately for a confidential consultation and get the help you need.

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