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Should Utah AMBER Alert requirements be revised?

Posted at 4:50 PM, Dec 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-13 19:44:30-05

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — Allison Brimhall is being held without bail Monday after taking her four daughters to California over the weekend, despite not having custody and a judge ordering she can’t be left alone with the children.

READ: Mother who took South Jordan children charged with kidnapping

“There was clearly some reasons as to why a mom should only have supervised visitation. There was information we came across that lead us to believe the kids were in danger,” said South Jordan Police Lt. Matt Pennington.

Pennington credits a Utah AMBER Alert for helping investigators find the girls safe at a home in San Diego.

“In this case the AMBER Alert was absolutely warranted,” said Lt. Pennington.

However, it’s a decision under attack by Utah State Sen. Todd Weiler (R), who posted on Twitter that, “AMBER Alerts should not be used for custody disputes between parents.”

“I think there is a little ‘boy crying wolf’ syndrome here,” Weiler told FOX 13. “I think that people are starting to ignore them.”

Charging documents show the girls were taken without shoes or winter coats from the father’s home.

According to a caseworker, Brimhall had previously said, “If I can’t have my girls, I will drive them off a cliff with them in the car.”

Despite that comment, Weiler, who claimed to have seen court documents related to Brimhall's divorce, continued to call her taking the children a "road trip."

FOX 13s Max Roth challenges state lawmaker below over his controversial AMBER Alert remarks

In-Depth: Max Roth challenges Utah lawmaker over controversial AMBER Alert tweets

“To get an AMBER Alert 21 hours after a mother takes her own children on a road trip to San Diego is several degrees separated from original intent of the AMBER Alert,” Weiler said.

To trigger an AMBER Alert, the Utah Department of Public Safety requires a situation must meet four criteria:

  • Law enforcement believes a child has been abducted
  • The child is under 18
  • Child is in imminent danger of serious injury or death
  • The public can help in a safe recovery or apprehension of the suspect

“The AMBER Alert exists to save a child from harm. We are confident that is what happened yesterday. We are very certain an AMBER Alert was the right thing to do,” said DPS Spokesperson Joe Dougherty.

Daugherty added that it is policy not to push a phone alert during the hours between 10 p.m and 7 a.m.

The number of AMBER Alerts is growing as DPS officials say they’ve gone from a couple a year, to seven or eight, due, in part to more law enforcement agencies participating in the system.

Weiler told FOX 13 he’d like to see the state’s AMBER Alert criteria revisited.

Brimhall will be in court Wednesday for the first time on the four child kidnapping charges against her.