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§15-3D-5. Missing persons investigation requirements.

(a) A law-enforcement agency may not delay an investigation of a missing persons complaint on the basis of a written or unwritten policy requiring that a certain period of time pass after any event, including the receipt of a complaint, before an investigation may commence.

(b) A law-enforcement agency may not refuse to accept a missing person report over which it has investigatory jurisdiction.

(c) A law-enforcement agency is not required to obtain written authorization before publicly releasing any photograph that would aid in the location or recovery of a missing person.

(d) A lead law-enforcement agency shall notify the complainant, a family member, or other person in a position to assist in efforts to locate the missing person of the following:  

(1) Whether additional information or materials would aid in the location of the missing person, such as information related to credit or debit cards the missing person may have access to, other banking information, or phone or computer records;

(2) That any DNA samples requested for the missing persons investigation are requested on a voluntary basis, to be used solely to help locate or identify the missing person and will not be used for any other purpose; and

(3) Any general information about the handling of the investigation and the investigation’s progress, unless disclosure would adversely affect the ability to locate or protect the missing person, or to apprehend or prosecute any person criminally involved in the person’s disappearance.

(e) A law-enforcement agency may provide informational materials through publications, or other means, regarding publicly available resources for obtaining or sharing missing persons information.

(f) Lead law-enforcement agencies shall make use of all available and applicable tools, resources, and technologies to resolve a missing persons investigation, including but not limited to:

(1) Assistance from other law-enforcement agencies, whether at a local, state, or federal level;

(2) Nonprofit search and rescue organizations, which may provide trained animal searches, use of specialized equipment, or man trackers;

(3) Cell phone triangularization and tracking services;

(4) Subpoenas of cell phone, land line, Internet, email, and social networking website records; and

(5) Services of technology experts to examine any available information collected from a computer or communications device belonging to or used by the missing person.

(g) If a person remains missing for 30 days after the receipt of a missing persons complaint or the date on which the person was last seen, whichever occurs earlier, the lead law-enforcement agency shall attempt to obtain the following information:

(1) DNA samples from family members and the missing person, along with any necessary authorizations to release such information. All DNA samples obtained in a missing persons investigation shall be immediately forwarded to an appropriate laboratory for analysis;

(2) Any necessary written authorization to release the missing person’s medical and dental records, including any available x-rays, to the lead law-enforcement agency. If no family or next of kin exists or can be located, the lead law-enforcement agency may execute a written declaration, stating that an active investigation seeking to locate the missing person is being conducted and that the records are required for the exclusive purpose of furthering the investigation. The written declaration, signed by the supervising or chief officer of the law-enforcement agency, is sufficient authority for a health care practitioner to immediately release the missing person’s x-rays, dental records, dental x-rays, and records of any surgical implants to the law-enforcement agency;

(3) Additional photographs of the missing person that may aid the investigation; and

(4) Fingerprints of the missing person.

(h) Nothing in this section precludes a law-enforcement agency from attempting to obtain the materials identified in subsection (g) of this section before the expiration of the 30-day period.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2017 Regular Session
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