NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – UPDATE – Evelyn Boswell’s Law, which would charge parents with a misdemeanor for failing to report a child as missing, has passed in the Tennessee House of Representatives.
House Bill 384, more commonly known as “Evelyn Boswell’s Law,” would charge parents who are aware their minor child is missing with a Class A misdemeanor if signed into law.
Representative John Crawford (R-Bristol) presented the bill on Thursday in the House.
The bill passed unanimously 91-0. Representatives needed no discussion following comments from Crawford and applauded when they saw the results of the vote.
You can watch News Channel 11’s live stream of the vote below:
The bill also passed unanimously in the state senate on Monday.
It now heads to the desk of Governor Bill Lee to be signed into law.
The bill states parents would be required to report their disappearance “within a reasonable time after determining that the child is missing, but in no event more than twenty-four (24) hours after determining that the child is missing.”
The text of the bill states that a minor child is a person under the age of 12.
Evelyn’s Law also states that anyone who falsely accuses a parent of failing to report their child missing could be charged with false reports.
You can read the full bill below:
The bill was introduced in response to the case of deceased Sullivan County toddler Evelyn Boswell, who was reported missing in February 2020. She had not been seen by family members since December, according to authorities.
Evelyn’s remains were found in March on a family member’s property. Her mother, Megan Boswell has been charged with two counts of felony murder and other offenses in relation to Evelyn’s death.
Applause broke out in the House of Representatives chamber on Thursday as the bill cleared its final hurdle in the Tennessee legislature.
“You had 99 members of the House, or 91 that were present who were applauding. That is very unusual. That doesn’t happen on the floor of either chamber,” said Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol), the bill’s Senate sponsor.
Rep. Crawford said lawmakers have been waiting for this moment since the bill was first introduced in last year’s session.
“We didn’t want other counties, other communities going through what we went through. Not only the expense of it, of getting the runaround, but just the mindset and how it weighs on our communities,” he said.
On Thursday, Sullivan County Sheriff Jeff Cassidy said passing Evelyn’s Law is an important step.
“I appreciate the continued support with the work in strengthening these state laws. So we can hold these parents accountable for their reckless and negligent actions when it comes to their children,” said Cassidy.
The passage of Evelyn’s Law was also celebrated by members of Evelyn’s Army. The group is largely made up of local mothers who assemble comfort bags for children in domestic violence situations in Evelyn’s memory.
“This is so awesome. This is so big as well,” said Evelyn’s Army member Olivia Wilson. “A lot of times the community can be affected by things, and they don’t feel like their voices are heard. But I feel like our voices have been heard and more.”
Lundberg expects Governor Lee to sign the bill into law as soon as the paperwork reaches his desk.
“We’ve had conversations with the Governor’s Office, so there’s no issues or concerns there,” he said.
Evelyn’s Law would then take effect on July 1, 2021.