Missing Person Law and Legal Definition

A missing person is a person 18 years old or older whose disappearance is possibly not voluntary, or a child whose whereabouts are unknown to the child's legal custodian, the circumstances of whose absence indicate that:

  1. The child did not voluntarily leave the care and control of the custodian, and the taking of the child was not authorized by law; or
  2. The child voluntarily left the care and control of the child's legal custodian without the custodian's consent and without intent to return.
  3. State agencies work to coordinate reports of missing persons with federal agencies, such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
  4. In states with an Amber Alert Plan, parents of a missing or abducted child can contact their local police or sheriff’s department to file a Missing Person Report. If a child is missing and believed to be in danger, there is no 24-hour waiting period. The law enforcement agency will immediately enter information about the missing child into the Missing Person’s database and the National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person File.

Participating law enforcement agencies can request an Amber Alert if their investigation determines that the child’s disappearance meets the Amber Alert criteria.

The length of time required and procedures to have a missing person may be declared dead varies by jurisdiction. Local laws should be consulted for requirements in your area. The following is an example of a statute dealing with declaring a missing person dead:

§ 32. Procedure for declaration of death

  1. After receipt of an application for declaration of death, a court shall publish a notice in a national daily newspaper calling on all persons to provide information concerning the person whose declaration of death is applied for.
  2. A court shall not declare a person dead if within six months after publication of the notice information is received which proves that the person is alive.