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Congressman Kevin Yoder

Representing the 3rd District of Kansas

Rep. Yoder Reintroduces Kelsey Smith Act to Help Prevent Violent Crimes

Mar 23, 2016
Press Release
House Committee Expected to Hold Hearing Next Month

Washington, D.C. – This afternoon, Representative Kevin Yoder (R-KS) reintroduced the Kelsey Smith Act, legislation named after the 18-year-old Shawnee Mission West graduate who was tragically abducted and murdered in 2007 after shopping at an Overland Park department store. After Kelsey’s car was found in a nearby parking lot, police immediately began searching for her but were unsuccessful over a period of four days until her cell phone’s location information was turned over to the authorities. Kelsey was then found in about 45 minutes.

“What happened to Kelsey Smith was an absolute tragedy,” Representative Yoder said. “This bill, named in her memory, will give law enforcement officials more effective tools to try and prevent horrible crimes like this from happening again. It provides a narrow emergency exception that preserves the privacy of cell phone users, but removes red tape so police can act quickly in an emergency. It strikes the right balance, which is why we’ve seen more than twenty states pass similar legislation. I want to thank Greg and Missey for their advocacy and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee to get this passed.”

The Kelsey Smith Act would help law enforcement and telecommunication officials work together quickly in cases of emergency to locate cell phones of missing persons. While current law does allow service providers to hand over location information to the authorities, it does not compel them to do so in cases of emergency. The bill would bring federal law in line with existing law in twenty-two states, including Kansas. It was previously passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in July 2014, but did not receive a vote on the House floor.

“We wish to thank Congressman Yoder for his diligence in working the Kelsey Smith Act. We understand that these things take time and greatly appreciate the introduction of it again,” Kansas Senator Greg and his wife Missey Smith said in a joint statement. “As of two days ago, twenty-two states have passed this life saving legislation and federal passage would provide uniformity across the United States. We are hopeful that this will be the year it passes.”

“The Kelsey Smith Act is commonsense legislation that makes it easier for law enforcement to find our children if the nightmare of abduction ever becomes a reality,” Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) said. “Because the fear of legal liability is a legitimate concern, our bill provides industry and law enforcement with the necessary tools to work together to do everything they can to find a loved one in danger when seconds count, while at the same time ensuring that all citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights are protected. Twenty-two states already have the Kelsey Smith law on the books. It is past time to make this protection available to all Americans.”

Senator Roberts has introduced the Kelsey Smith Act in previous Congresses and will introduce companion legislation in the Senate next month.