Making false 911 report could become felony

"Knowingly sending search and rescue personnel on a 911 wild goose chase would become a felony under a law proposed in the Legislature.Island County Sheriff Mike Hawley testified in Olympia Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee to lend his support to Senate Bill 5086, which was introduced by Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island.The bill was prompted by an incident in Island County last August. A woman in Florida made a false 911 report, leading authorities to believe she and her children were trapped in a car somewhere on Whidbey Island. A massive search centered on South Whidbey included all island fire districts, police departments and even NAS Whidbey Marines and a helicopter.This was the moral equivalent of someone destroying $75,000 worth of government property, Hawley told the Senate committee. The woman, Cheryl Brown, was never charged. Making a false 911 call is presently a misdemeanor if it causes public inconvenience or alarm. The maximum penalty is one year in jail and/or a fine up to $5,000.Because Brown's alleged crime was a misdemeanor, Hawley said it wasn't practical to try to have her extradited from Florida. If making a false 911 call were a felony, he said, extraditing out-of-state offenders back to Washington would be easier.If SB 5086 becomes law, making such a false 911 call would be considered a Class C felony, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $120,000.This was obviously a crime that affected my district, Sen. Haugen told the committee. But it could happen anywhere. "

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