Missing Persons Reports
Unlike you hear on tv and in the movies, there is no waiting period for reporting a missing person. A missing should be reported to the sheriff's office any time after the individual goes missing - after a "reasonable" time has passed OR dependent upon the circumstances.
The catch is the "reasonable time" part. If it is a young child - the report should be filed immediately. For a teenager - a little longer. For an adult (not under suspicious circumstances) - maybe longer still. To report a person missing, you must have legal "standing" - a family member or a person in a close personal relationship, for instance.
Most people do not realize that it is not a crime to be a "missing" person. A legally competent adult can decide to disappear with no notice whatsoever to anyone and has every legal right to do so. Occasionally the police will locate a long-lost missing person but all they can legally do is report back to the person that originally reported them missing is that they have been located and they are okay. Legally they cannot even disclose where it is they were found.
Knowing the facts before a crisis can be critical when things go wrong. Find out the important facts you need to know if you ever file a missing persons report.
- There is no waiting period. Many shows and movies have publicized the 24 or 48 hour waiting period to report missing people but that doesn't exist in real police offices. As soon as you know an adult or child is missing, report it to police.
- Anyone can be a missing person. It's not just limited to children. Adults can be reported as missing too. If you suspect that someone you love can't be located and may need medical, legal, or other help, it's time to file a missing persons report.
- Bring the right information. Police need as complete a description as possible to locate a missing person. When filing a report bring one or more clear photographs, preferably from the shoulders up. Also have a clear description of height, weight, age, and any identifying marks such as tattoos or birthmarks. Know what they were last seen wearing and who they were seen with before they went missing.
- Give all the details. Police may do an expedited search depending on the factors involved. Very young children and people who are mentally or physically impaired or in need of medical attention are in more danger the longer they are missing. Those who were likely the victim of a crime or other foul play may also get particular attention from police. Once police have all the facts about a potential disappearance they will be better equipped to respond appropriately.
- Know what to expect after they're found. Hopefully the missing person will be found quickly and before any harm happens. If they turn up on their own, make sure to inform police to call off the search. If police find a missing adult whose actions were voluntary, they might not disclose where the person is unless the person gives permission. Filing a missing person report for an adult doesn't entitle you to know where they are, only that they are safe.