Home Abduction Legislative Reforms

Abduction Legislative Reforms

Missing Children Act of 1982

Missing Children Act of 1982

The problem of missing children reached a breaking point when Etan Patz was abducted. The Missing Children Act of 1982 authorized the FBI to enter and maintain relevant information about missing children in the National Crime Information Center. Law enforcement from the Federal, State, and local levels are then able to access this information, providing a previously lacking resource for finding a missing child.
The Act also enables families to verify that the FBI is maintaining information about their missing children. The Missing Children Act of 1982 was the first of its kind that reassured parents of the effort being made to find their children. It addressed the growing issue of the American lost child by creating a system, still used today, that allowed parents and law enforcement to access a computer database aimed at locating missing people.

Legislative Reforms Overview

Legislative Reforms Overview

The increasing number of stories of missing children and suffering families helped to start the missing child movement in the United States. When the average American turned on their televisions and radios, they were bombarded with news outlets speaking of the lack of resources and information in cases of missing children. Several high-profile cases were essential in sparking the movement: the story of Etan Patz and Adam Walsh.


Missing Children Act of 1982
The Missing Children Act of 1982 was the first of many legislative reforms that helped American families locate their children. The Act authorized law enforcement to enter pertinent information about missing children into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center.
This database is then accessible by Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies and used to help locating missing children and identify unidentified children. The Act also allowed for parents to verify that their child’s information is properly entered into the database.

National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990

The National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 required Federal, State, and local law enforcement to report every case of missing children (or individuals under the age of 18) to the National Crime Information Center of the FBI. It also required law enforcement to maintain these entries with any newly discovered information and directed the U.S. Attorney General to make an annual summary of these reports.
The Act also established State requirements for reporting missing juveniles, including prohibiting a waiting period for accepting missing child reports, assisting with child search and investigative procedures, and maintaining a close liaison with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.


Extradition Treaties Interpretation Act of 1998:
Passed to address the language of extradition treaties, especially those aiming to bring back missing children to their families, the Extradition Treaties Interpretation Act of 1998 authorized the interpretation of the term “kidnapping” in extradition treaties to include parental kidnapping. By doing so, Congress allowed for a clearer interpretation of extradition treaties, aiming to protect the interests of American children and their parents.


Suzanne’s Law
Suzanne’s Law was passed in honor of Suzanne Lyall, a student of SUNY-Albany that disappeared forever in 1998. The law, passed in 2003, required police to immediately notify the National Crime Information Center every time a person between the ages of 18 and 21 went missing. The law protected individuals attending college, a group of individuals that were not protected by previous legislation.

Megan’s Law
Megan’s Law was passed in response to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka.

Amie’s Law
Amie’s Law, passed in 2005, changed State law to allow authorities to publicly release a list of sex offenders whose crimes occurred as juveniles. The law provides more tools to law enforcement by allowing police to identify and assess risk for juvenile sex offenders and notify the community about individuals likely to repeat their crimes. Amie’s Law was named after Amie Zyla, a girl who was sexually assaulted by a 14-year-old boy when she was only 8.
When Amie was 17, she learned that the same boy who assaulted her was charged with multiple counts of child molestation. As a response, Amie pleaded for the passing of the law. The law addressed the issue of recidivism in crimes of child molestation but was met with much contention. Opponents claimed that the law unfairly labeled individuals, many of which already served a sentence for the crimes.


Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act
The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act was passed by President George W. Bush in 2006. The Act placed sex offenders into a 3-tiered system, each tier having different requirements for registration. It also created a national database of sexual offenders, utilizing DNA evidence and a GPS system in tracking convicted sex offenders in a sex offender registry database.

Suzannes Law

Suzannes Law

In 1998, Suzanne Lyall, a student of the State University of New York at Albany disappeared and was never to be seen again. In response, President George W. Bush signed “Suzanne’s Law” in 2003. The law required police to notify the National Crime Information Center every time a person between the ages 18 and 21 went missing.
Before the passage of Suzanne’s Law, law enforcement were only required to immediately report cases of missing children under the age of 18. The new family law changed the provision from 18 to 21, protecting individuals who have recently graduated high school or are attending college.
Suzanne’s Law amends the Crime Control Act of 1990. In the past, it was common practice for police to wait a day before investigating college-aged missing persons. The family law encouraged law enforcement to begin investigations as soon as possible, hoping to save lives that may otherwise be lost waiting through an arbitrary waiting period. 

International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993

International Parental Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993

Under the International Kidnapping Crime Act of 1993, individuals who remove a child from the United States and obstruct parental rights are subject to fine and imprisonment for up to 3 years. Children are defined as a person who is not yet 16 years of age. Parental rights are defined as the right to physical custody of a child and can be modified by joint or sole rights, or arising from law or a court order.
The Act also stated proper defenses of the section:
1. The defendant acted within provisions of a court order granting legal custody or visitation rights of the child, and that the order was in effect at the time of the offense;
2. The defendant was fleeing domestic violence in the United States or in a foreign country;
3. The defendant had physical custody of the child as a result of a court order and failed the return the child on time due to circumstances beyond the defendant’s control;
4. The defendant also must have notified the other parent and returned the child as soon as possible.

National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990

National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990

The National Child Search Assistance Act of 1990 was enacted by Congress to assist parents in recovering missing children. It ensures that no State law enforcement agencies establish a policy with a waiting period for accepting missing children reports. Waiting periods were seen to be arbitrary and hazardous to the safety of abducted children, as most murders or serious injuries occurred within 24 hours of the child’s disappearance.
This Act providesthat each missing child report and all available information is entered into the law enforcement system of the State and the National Crime Information Center. States must also make the information available to the Missing Children Information Clearinghouse.
This means that these reports must be made publicly available at the State’s central register for missing children. The Act also required the agency that enters such a report into the National Crime Information Center to verify and update the record with any additional information.
The Act changed the requirements of law enforcement agencies when dealing with missing children. An effort to improve efforts to find missing children, the National Child Search Assistance Act was one of a number of legislative reforms in the 1990s aimed at accomplishing the goal.