BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                            



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                                    THIRD READING


          Bill No:  AB 535
          Author:   Quirk (D)
          Amended:  4/10/13 in Assembly
          Vote:     21

           
           SENATE PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE  :  7-0, 6/4/13
          AYES:  Hancock, Anderson, Block, De León, Knight, Liu, Steinberg

           SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE  :  7-0, 6/24/13
          AYES:  De León, Walters, Gaines, Hill, Lara, Padilla, Steinberg

           ASSEMBLY FLOOR  :  76-0, 4/25/13 (Consent) - See last page for  
            vote


           SUBJECT  :    Emergency Alert System

           SOURCE  :     Alameda County Board of Supervisors
                      Alameda County District Attorney


           DIGEST  :    This bill provides that for purposes of activating  
          the Emergency Alert System, an abductor may include a custodial  
          parent or guardian where the abducted child is in imminent  
          danger of serious bodily injury or death.

           ANALYSIS  :    

          Existing law:

          1. Provides that if an abduction has been reported to a law  
             enforcement agency and the agency determines that a child, 17  
                                                                CONTINUED





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             years of age or younger, or an individual with a proven  
             mental or physical disability, has been abducted and is in  
             imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death, and there  
             is information available that, if disseminated to the general  
             public, could assist in the safe recovery of the victim, the  
             agency, through a person authorized to activate the Emergency  
             Alert System, shall, absent extenuating investigative needs,  
             request activation of the Emergency Alert System within the  
             appropriate local area. Law enforcement agencies shall only  
             request activation of the Emergency Alert System for  
             abduction if these requirements are met. 

          2. Provides that the Emergency Alert System is not intended to  
             be used for abductions resulting from custody disputes that  
             are not reasonably believed to endanger the life or physical  
             health of a child.  

          This bill provides that, for purposes of activation of the  
          Emergency Alert System, an abductor may include a custodial  
          parent or guardian where the abducted child is in imminent  
          danger of serious bodily injury or death.

           Background
           
          An "Amber Alert" is issued upon the suspicion that a child was  
          abducted.  The AMBER Alert system started in 1996 after the  
          abduction and murder of nine-year old Amber Hagerman from  
          Arlington, Texas.  Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with  
          local police to develop an early warning system to help find  
          abducted children.

          "AMBER" stands for America's Missing Broadcast Emergency  
          Response.

          The Child Alert Foundation created the first fully automated  
          Alert Notification System (ANS) in 1998 to notify surrounding  
          communities when a child was reported missing or abducted. 

          By 2002, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children  
          (NCME) expanded its role in promoting the AMBER Alert; the  
          Federal Communications Commission officially endorsed the  
          system; and California established a state-wide AMBER Alert  
          system.  By 2005, all 50 states had operational programs.  The  
          US Department of Justice (US DOJ) continues to look for ways to  







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          improve the AMBER Alert program to increase success in the  
          recovery of abducted children.

          According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), 75% of children  
          who are abducted and later found murdered were killed within  
          three hours of being abducted.  As such, quick response is  
          critical in the safe return of children.  Since 2002, the  
          California Highway Patrol (CHP) has activated 205 alerts,  
          resulting in the safe return of 244 victims.  

          As noted by the author's office and the Assembly Public Safety  
          Committee's analysis of this bill, there have been at least two  
          cases where AMBER alerts have not been issued for children  
          believed to be at risk after having been "taken," but by a  
          parent with legal custody.  No statewide AMBER Alert was issued  
          in 2005, when relatives contacted authorities with grave  
          concerns about Mary Alicia Driscol and her five year-old  
          daughter Jineva.  Driscol drove her daughter from their home in  
          Contra Costa County to Sonoma County, where mother and daughter  
          ultimately were found dead in the mother's car in an apparent  
          murder-suicide.  Although sought by local authorities, no  
          statewide AMBER Alert was issued in this case.  The CHP  
          determined that because the mother had sole custody of her  
          daughter, an abduction could not have occurred for purposes of  
          issuing an AMBER Alert.

          Similarly, in 2012 Christopher Maffei appeared at his former  
          girlfriend's home and unexpectedly took their three-year old  
          daughter and six-year old son.  The children were safely rescued  
          after the boat Christopher had stolen was spotted by a fisherman  
          about 50 miles off the coast of Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay.   
          An AMBER Alert was not issued because he was a "parent with no  
          legal restrictions against having the children."  (See San  
          Francisco Chronicle article, "Kids recovered after abduction,  
          police say.")

           FISCAL EFFECT  :    Appropriation:  No   Fiscal Com.:  Yes    
          Local:  Yes

          According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, potential  
          annual costs in the range of $45,000 to $90,000 (Special Fund*)  
          to the extent the provisions of this bill result in addition  
          AMBER alerts.  As the provisions of this bill essentially  
          clarify current practice, additional costs are not estimated to  







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          be significant.

           SUPPORT  :   (Verified  6/25/13)

          Alameda County Board of Supervisors (co-source)
          Alameda County District Attorney (co-source)
          California Association of Highway Patrolmen
          California Police Chiefs Association
          Child Abuse Prevention Center
          Contra Costa County Police Chiefs Association
          Crime Victims Action Alliance
          Crime Victims United of California
          Klaas Kids Foundation
          National Association of Social Workers, California Chapter
          Peace Officers Research Association of California
          Polly Klaas Foundation


           ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT  :    The author states in part:

            . . .  In California, AMBER Alerts are administered by the  
            California Highway Patrol (CHP).  In conjunction with  
            criteria established by the DOJ, alerts are issued if the  
            following conditions are met:


             1.   Investigating law enforcement agency confirms an  
               abduction has occurred;


             2.   Victim is 17 years of age or younger, or has a mental  
               or physical disability;


             3.   Victim is in imminent danger of serious injury or  
               death; and


             4.   There is information, that if provided to the public,  
               could assist in the child's safe recovery.


            Since 2002, CHP has activated 205 alerts, resulting in the  
            safe return of 244 victims.  







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            In an intelligence brief released to the author's office by  
            the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), custodial  
            motivated abductions augment the threat to children. A  
            primary hindrance in recovering a child abducted by a  
            custodial parent is "the perception by law enforcement that  
            a child is not at risk in the physical custody of a parent,  
            even if the parent is the abductor?When a custodial child  
            is reported to law enforcement, the child should be  
            considered to be in danger, especially in cases which the  
            custodial parent has been reported to have previously  
            threatened to abduct or harm their child; are mentally  
            disabled; or are unemployed and are therefore financially  
            unstable." Further, the abduction should be taken more  
            seriously in instances in which the abducting parent has a  
            history of previous threats "to abduct or harm their child;  
            are mentally disabled; or are unemployed and are therefore  
            financially unstable."

            According to the US Department of Justice, 800,000 children  
            are reported missing every year in the US. An estimated  
            200,000 are abducted by a family member. No parent ever  
            wants to have to report a missing child. However, when such  
            action is needed, quick and coordinated response by law  
            enforcement can help to safely return the child. 

            However, there is ambiguity as to whether or not an AMBER  
            Alert may be activated if the abduction of a child was done  
            by a parent or guardian. . . .    

            According to the DOJ, 75% of children who are abducted and  
            later found murdered were killed within three hours of  
            being abducted. As such, quick response is critical in the  
            safe return of children. . . .

            The AMBER Alert system has been a powerful tool in helping  
            law enforcement to safely and quickly recover abducted  
            children. 

            However, there is a discrepancy in current law that needs  
            to be addressed. There is disagreement if, all other  
            factors considered, an AMBER Alert can be issued if the  
            abductor is a parent or guardian. The relationship between  
            the child and the abductor should not be an inhibiting  







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            factor if there is reason to believe that the child's life  
            is at risk.


           ASSEMBLY FLOOR  :  76-0, 4/25/13
          AYES:  Achadjian, Alejo, Allen, Ammiano, Atkins, Bigelow, Bloom,  
            Blumenfield, Bocanegra, Bonilla, Bonta, Bradford, Brown,  
            Buchanan, Ian Calderon, Campos, Chau, Chávez, Chesbro, Conway,  
            Dahle, Daly, Dickinson, Donnelly, Eggman, Fong, Fox, Frazier,  
            Beth Gaines, Garcia, Gatto, Gomez, Gordon, Gorell, Gray,  
            Grove, Hagman, Hall, Harkey, Roger Hernández, Holden, Jones,  
            Jones-Sawyer, Levine, Linder, Logue, Maienschein, Mansoor,  
            Medina, Melendez, Mitchell, Morrell, Mullin, Muratsuchi,  
            Nestande, Olsen, Pan, Patterson, Perea, V. Manuel Pérez,  
            Quirk, Quirk-Silva, Rendon, Salas, Skinner, Stone, Ting,  
            Torres, Wagner, Waldron, Weber, Wieckowski, Wilk, Williams,  
            Yamada, John A. Pérez
          NO VOTE RECORDED:  Cooley, Lowenthal, Nazarian, Vacancy


          JG:d  6/25/13   Senate Floor Analyses 

                           SUPPORT/OPPOSITION:  SEE ABOVE

                                   ****  END  ****