Bothell, WA asked in Criminal Law, Communications Law and Domestic Violence for Colorado

Q: Are police required to take a missing persons report if an adult w/ history of mental illness disappears "voluntarily"?

My uncle disappeared. He did leave a message on Facebook saying he was going "off the grid", but that message has also disappeared. Police in Centennial, CO (where he lived) and Denver refuse to report him as a missing person because they say he is an adult who left voluntarily. But the messages and notes he left sounded distressed, cited verbal abuse by his roommate, and he has a history of mental illness (he has been hospitalized in the past for severe depression and thoughts of suicide). He claimed in his FB post "I'm not planning on hurting myself", but people with mental illness can easily lie about that or change their minds. He has been gone for two months now without contact. We are very concerned about him. Is there a legal clause that allows him to be listed as a missing person on the grounds of mental instability, abuse, or risk of self-harm despite his apparent voluntary departure?

1 Lawyer Answer
Sean Maye
Sean Maye
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Denver, CO
  • Licensed in Colorado

A: First off, I am sorry that you and your family are suffering through this.

As for the law concerning missing persons, you may consult CO Statute 16-2.7-102, which states that "any person with relevant, credible information suggesting that a person is missing MAY make a missing person report to a law enforcement agency." It also adds that "a law enforcement agency SHALL accept, without delay, a missing person report that is submitted in person if: (a) The missing person resides, or was last known to reside, within the jurisdiction of the law enforcement agency and the missing person's last-known location is the missing person's residence or his or her location is unknown; or (b) There is credible information indicating that the missing person was last believed to be within the jurisdiction of the law enforcement agency."

What this means is that (1) you are well within your rights to file a missing persons report based on what you believe to be the relevant, credible information you briefly described in this post and that (2) the police department would be required to accept your report if the information you provide is deemed "credible."

The police are likely telling you that they do not believe your information is credible because they believe he "left voluntarily," which would absolve them of any investigation requirements under 16-2.7-102. You may have a cause of action but it depends on a lot of different factors, which you should consult with a lawyer on.

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