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Can You File a Missing Person Report for Someone Over 18?

by Sarah Johnson
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Can You File a Missing Person Report for Someone Over 18?

There is nothing more nerve-racking than having a loved one suddenly go missing. Whether it’s a friend or a family member, not knowing their whereabouts can be highly stressful. While the search for a missing child may be fast-tracked, searching for a missing adult can be a longer process. In this article, we will discuss whether you can file a missing person report for someone over 18 years and other pertinent information to help you deal with the difficult situation.

What Does “Go Missing” Mean?

Definition of Missing Person

When someone’s whereabouts are unknown, and there is reason to believe that they have been subjected to foul play, have committed suicide, or met with an accident, the person is presumed to be missing.

Legal Right to Go Missing

Every individual has the legal right to go missing, which means they can choose to disappear at any time voluntarily. However, relatives or individuals who had a relationship with the missing person may become concerned if they have no prior knowledge of the person’s intent to go missing or if they believe that the person is in danger. In such a scenario, the family members or friends of the missing person can report their concerns to the authorities.

What to Do When Someone Goes Missing?

When someone goes missing, you must report it to your local police department, call 911 or your local emergency number, or contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. If you suspect that someone’s life is in danger, you should immediately call 911. Reaching out to them at the earliest gives an upper hand to the investigators in the case.

What is Considered a Missing Person?

Definition of Missing Adult

An adult who has gone missing is also a missing person—any individual aged over 18 years who is missing is considered to be a missing adult. This category includes those who have voluntarily disappeared, are mentally or physically incapacitated, or are the victims of abduction or other foul play.

When Can You File a Missing Person Report for an Adult?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recommends that any missing person case is reported to the police department. However, missing person reports for an adult may not be taken by all law enforcement agencies. Depending on the state you are in, the police may require a waiting period before filing a report for someone over 18. You can always contact your local police department to get additional information about the missing person, and they will guide you further.

What Happens When You Report a Missing Adult?

When an individual is reported missing, they will be listed in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a federal database. The information entered into the NCIC will be used by law enforcement agencies across the country to help find the missing person, and you can expect that the NCIC will also contain physical descriptions or other identifying characteristics of the missing adult.

How Do Investigators Handle Missing Persons Cases?

Contacting Local Law Enforcement

When you report a missing adult, local law enforcement officers will be responsible for conducting an initial investigation. They will interview witnesses, collect potential evidence, coordinate with other law enforcement agencies, and gather information to poster and publicize the missing person. Further, they may ask you for additional information about the missing person, like their cell phone records, social media account information, and other personal information which can help speed up the investigation.

What Happens During a Missing Persons Investigation?

The investigation will usually include gathering as much information about the disappearance of the missing person as possible. Investigators will interview the last seen witnesses, review the CCTV footage from the area where they were last seen and scrutinize other potential sources of information to help provide clues. They will also make sure to talk to family members and friends or anyone who can provide information about the last time the missing person was seen.

What Is NCIC?

NCIC is the database that is maintained through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and it contains information about missing people, individuals who have warrants issued for them, and those who are on probation or parole. Law enforcement agencies across the country utilize NCIC technology to help solve crimes, locate missing persons or identify John or Jane Doe.

What Can You Do to Help Find a Missing Person?

Search the Area Where They Were Last Seen

The best way to help in the initial search is to go out and start looking in the immediate areas around where the missing person was last seen. You should only search areas where it is legal to do so, and you should seek permission before searching on someone else’s property. If you can, try to look for any clues that might help law enforcement agents find the person. You may also want to try sharing pictures on social media that can help in circulating the search for the missing person.

Contact Family Members and Friends

It is also crucial that you contact their family members, friends, colleagues, or anyone else who might have seen the missing person recently. Sharing relevant information on their ongoing whereabouts can help investigators piece together what happened and where the missing person might be.

Check Social Media and Cell Phone Records

Information like the missing person’s social media account information and cell phone records can provide clues on the person’s whereabouts, and it is beneficial to share this information to the authorities. Cell phone records can provide law enforcement officers with the last location of the missing person, which might lead to finding them.

What Happens if Foul Play is Suspected?

How Do Police Investigate a Suspected Abduction?

Where there is foul play or a suspected abduction, police will investigate. The investigation may require a specialist investigation team or detective who is experienced in investigation techniques for missing persons. The investigator will collect evidence, and the local police department will cooperate and provide any information that may help the investigation.

How Can DNA Help in a Missing Persons Case?

If the disappearance or abduction involves a missing adult, DNA could help in the investigation. Before filing a missing person’s report, law enforcement agents will ask blood relatives of the missing person to provide DNA samples. This DNA will then be used to help compare and identify unknown individuals or remains that might match the missing person’s DNA.

What Happens If the Missing Person Is Unidentified?

In some missing cases, the missing person is found deceased. In such instances, the authorities will try to identify the person by reviewing their physical or mental characteristics and entering the information into the NCIC. If the individual has been missing for an extended period, the authorities might posthumously issue a death certificate after conducting a thorough investigation on the remains.


If you find yourself dealing with the disappearance of a loved one, it’s crucial to remain vigilant and communicate with the relevant authorities to help them with their investigations. Contact your local law enforcement agency or the national center for missing persons immediately. This will help you file a missing person report and provide any details that might help speed up the investigation process. By actively participating and communicating with law enforcement officials, you can help in the search for your loved one.

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