‘Kelsey Smith Act’ to help locate kidnap victims becomes Oklahoma law

Oklahoma Senate Communications

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill intended to help law enforcement locate kidnap victims faster has been signed into law. Sen. Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, and Rep. Rande Worthen, R-Lawton, are the principal authors of Senate Bill 272, the “Kelsey Smith Act,” which will require cell phone companies to provide phone location information to law enforcement in emergency situations, such as an abduction. The measure was signed into law on May 3, which would have been Kelsey’s 32nd birthday.

The Kelsey Smith Act is named for an 18-year-old from Kansas who was abducted from a store parking lot in 2007. By the time police finally got the information on Kelsey’s cell phone pings, it was too late—she was found murdered four days later. Since Kelsey’s death, her parents, Greg and Missey Smith, have been working to pass legislation throughout the country to give law enforcement emergency access to information to locate the cell phone of an abducted person. Smith’s mother contacted Weaver about passing similar legislation in Oklahoma.

“Greg and I are absolutely thrilled that this bill was signed on Kelsey’s birthday,” Missey Smith said. “We’re so thankful to Senator Weaver championing this legislation, to Representative Worthen, the House author, to the members who supported it, and to Governor Stitt.”

Smith said Oklahoma is now the 28th state to adopt legislation in remembrance of Kelsey. Legislation is now awaiting approval by Montana’s governor, and several other states have similar measures pending.

“It’s my understanding that Oklahoma’s cell providers have cooperated well with law enforcement in emergency situations, but codifying it in the statutes will provide clarity, assuring all cell companies that they are within the law to share this information in circumstances where minutes count,” Weaver said. “I’m grateful to Kelsey’s family for reaching out to me about this legislation, and for the overwhelming, bipartisan support it received, and to Governor Stitt for signing this bill into law.”

The measure would only apply to emergency situations involving risk of death or serious physical harm. Additionally, the cell service provider would have to notify the customer within 30 days that the phone had been pinged in order to help find a missing person. Cell companies will also have civil and criminal liability protection for providing call location information while acting in good faith and in accordance with the provisions of the legislation.

“In emergency or life-threatening situations, every minute makes a difference,” Worthen said. “Senate Bill 272 allows law enforcement officers to obtain an individual’s location via their cell phone and will no doubt help save lives. I am thankful that this important legislation has become law and look forward to the day it goes into effect.”

SB 272 officially takes effect on Nov. 1, 2021.

For more information, contact Sen. Darrell Weaver at 405-521-5569 or email Darrell.Weaver@oksenate.gov.