H.R. 4889, the Kelsey Smith Act of 2016

H.R. 4889

The Kelsey Smith Act of 2016

May 23, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact

Floor Situation

On Monday, May 23, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 4889, the Kelsey Smith Act of 2016, under suspension of the rules.  H.R. 4889 was introduced on March 23, 2016 by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.  The Committee on Energy and Committee ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on April 28, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4889 allows law enforcement to access cell phone location data more quickly in order to better react to emergencies and locate a potential victim. Specifically, this bill requires commercial mobile service providers to provide call location information to law enforcement when the device has been used to call 9-1-1 for emergency assistance, or for a device that is in the possession of a user that law enforcement believes to be in an emergency situation involving risk or death or serious physical harm. In addition, the legislation limits the liability for carriers that, in good faith, provide location data in compliance with the law. The bill does not limit the ability of the states to impose requirements or procedures on its law enforcement officers to ensure that the provisions of the Kelsey Smith Act are used properly or to protect the privacy of its citizens.


When a cell phone connects to or communicates with a network, whether to make a call, download data, or receive a push notification, the cell providers note the approximate location using the closest cell tower and the device’s proximity to that tower. Current Federal law permits telecommunications carriers to use, disclose, or permit access to call location information for users of their service to emergency personnel in order to respond to a user’s call for emergency services. In addition, current law permits carriers to provide location to the user’s legal guardian or immediate family when there is an emergency situation with risk of death of serious physical harm. However, Federal law does not compel disclosure of that information to law enforcement, leaving the decision to the discretion of the carrier.[1] To date, similar legislation has passed in 23 states

In 2007, Kelsey Smith was abducted from a parking lot in Kansas. While a search for her began immediately, law enforcement encountered difficulty in obtaining location information from her cell phone provider. After four days of searching, law enforcement located her body within 45 minutes of receiving the device location data.[2]

According to the bill’s sponsor, “It’s time to give law enforcement officials more effective tools to try and prevent horrible crimes like what happened to Kelsey from ever happening again.”[3]

[1] See E&C Majority Memorandum April 26-27, 2016, Full Committee Markup, at 4.
[2] Id. at 5.
[3] See Rep. Yoder’s Press Release “Yoder Applauds Subcommittee for Passage of Kelsey Smith Act” April 19, 2016.


A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate is currently unavailable.


Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.