New Law Makes Changes to AMBER Alert System

June 30, 2023

AUSTIN – Newly signed legislation is making changes to the existing AMBER Alert system to allow local area activation under certain conditions. Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 3556 into law on June 13, 2023, and the law immediately took effect.

This law has been referred to informally as the “Athena Alert” bill, in honor of seven-year-old Athena Strand, who was kidnapped and murdered in Wise County in 2022. It allows law enforcement to request activation of the AMBER Alert system even if the criteria have not been verified. However, it is important for Texans to understand that the legislation did not create a new alert, and all alert messaging will continue to be referenced as an AMBER Alert.

Under the new law, a request for an AMBER Alert may be made by a local law enforcement agency that knows a child is missing but has not verified the AMBER Alert criteria, and if the chief law enforcement officer of the local law enforcement agency believes that activation of the alert system is warranted. Under these circumstances, a local area AMBER Alert would be activated in the following areas:

  • within a 100-mile radius of the location from which the child is believed to have gone missing or the location in which the child was last seen; and
  • in all counties adjacent to the county from which the child is believed to have gone missing, or the county in which the child was last seen.

Law enforcement agencies seeking to activate a local area AMBER Alert will use the AMBER Alert Request Form, which was updated shortly after the new law took effect.

When an alert has been activated, DPS asks all Texans to pay attention to alert messages and to be observant of their surroundings. If an alert is posted either on a highway sign or information is shared in other formats such as broadcasts or social media, take time to read and digest the information. Once the description of the child, suspect or vehicle is shared, be aware of possible matches. Texans should immediately call 9-1-1 if they have information to share with law enforcement.


(HQ 2023-032)