Cell phone records to aid in missing persons cases

Nicole Fisher

Contributing Writer

Law-enforcement officials will be able to obtain cell phone records to help find missing children and seniors under legislation approved by the General Assembly.

House Bill 1252, sponsored by Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, R-Potomac Falls, says telecommunications companies must provide records if a court orders for an investigation of a missing child, senior adult or incapacitated person.

The bill unanimously passed both the House and Senate and has been sent to Gov. Bob McDonnell. If he signs it, the new law would take effect July 1.

Currently, cell phone records can be obtained only in criminal investigations.

“There are few things more important than the safety of our children and our elders,” Greason said. “I’m proud to have been able to be a part of providing tools to law enforcement to assist them in keeping our loved ones safe.”

The bill originated with Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman of Loudoun County. Plowman and his staff approached Greason and asked him to carry the measure.

“If a child goes missing or an elderly person with Alzheimer’s wanders off, no crime is committed, and as such, no subpoena can legally issue for these records,” Plowman said.

Plowman noted that time is a factor when someone goes missing. Cell phone records will give law-enforcement authorities another tool to locate the missing person.

“The use of cellular phones is so common in our society that tracking the data from cell towers that includes call numbers, dates, times and locations has become invaluable in investigations,” Plowman said.

Under HB 1252, the service provider could ask that the court order be modified if the request for information is too large or would cause an undue burden.

“I can’t describe the tremendous amount of positive feedback on this bill that I’ve received from law enforcement officials across the state,” Greason said. “This was not a situation that was unique to Loudoun County, and it seems the statewide effects of this legislation will be quickly recognized by our law enforcement community.”

Database of Missing Persons in Virginia

The Virginia State Police has a searchable online database of missing persons in general and missing children in particular. You can find links to the data on the agency’s Web page, www.vsp.state.va.us.

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