Trenton – In an effort to help find high-risk missing persons, the Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senator Linda Greenstein and Senator Nicholas Sacco that would expand the authority of the State Police’s Missing Persons and Human Trafficking Unit.
“Under current law, a ‘high-risk missing person’ is an individual whose whereabouts are unknown, and the circumstances of their disappearance suggest they may be at imminent or likely risk of injury or death,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer/Middlesex), Chair of the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee. “Currently, the process to recover any missing person can be lengthy, and in high-risk situations, every second truly counts. Through this legislation, the State would be able to establish a procedure to determine if a missing person is high risk, granting the Missing Persons Unit the ability to start handling the case sooner rather than later.”
The bill, S-2081, would establish a rebuttable presumption of criminal activity if a missing person is determined by a county prosecutor to be a high risk missing person. This presumption would allow the Missing Persons Unit to seek or obtain legal process, including subpoenas, warrants, and court orders to investigate the missing person.
“Without evidence that a crime was committed in a missing persons case, it is often difficult for law enforcement to obtain the needed information to help find that individual,” said Senator Sacco (D-Hudson/Bergen). “With this bill, the State Police’s Missing Persons and Human Trafficking Unit would have the authority to issue subpoenas and seek out court orders on individuals believed to be missing under high-risk circumstances. No one wants to see the process of locating their loved one hindered because investigators are unable to access information and this bill would help speed the process up.”
Under existing law, there are various circumstances that may cause a missing person to be considered high risk, including; if the circumstances in which they are missing indicate to be involuntary, if they have been missing for more than 30 days and if the person is missing under known dangerous circumstances.
The bill provides that if the Missing Persons Unit discovers evidence that indicates the missing person is not high risk, there would no longer be a presumption of criminal activity, and the unit would not be authorized to seek legal process.
The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 35-0.