Missing and Unidentified Persons Section

Through the Missing and Unidentified Persons Section, the California Department of Justice assists law enforcement agencies throughout the state in finding missing persons.

The Missing and Unidentified Persons Section maintains statewide files containing the dental records, photographs and physical characteristics of missing and unidentified persons.

Staff assist law enforcement agencies in locating missing persons and identifying unknown live and deceased persons through the comparison of physical characteristics, fingerprints, and dental/body X-rays. (See Sections 14200-14215 of the California Penal Code.)

The Missing and Unidentified Persons Section in the department's Division of California Justice Information Services, consists of the following four components:

Physical Identification

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The physical identification component compares reports of missing persons and unidentified persons against each other for possible matches. Possible matches can be made from comparison of physical characteristics such as hair color, eye color, height, and weight, or from comparison of other physical identifiers such as clothing, jewelry, scars, or tattoos.

Physical Identification staff also make inquiries into a variety of governmental and private data bases to find information which may result in the location of persons reported missing. Any information found is disclosed to the reporting law enforcement agency.

Dental Identification

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In 1979, California became the first state to implement a statewide Dental Identification Program to process dental records submitted by law enforcement agencies and coroners throughout California and other states. Staff classify, index, and compare dental records of missing and unidentified persons against each other for possible matches. If a possible match is made based upon dental records, the contributing agencies are notified.

Missing Children Clearinghouse

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The California Missing Children Clearinghouse (MCCH) maintains a toll-free telephone hotline (1-800-222-FIND) 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week to receive information and inquiries regarding missing children. It relays this information to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The California MCCH may also be reached at (916) 210-3119 or by Email at missing.persons@doj.ca.gov.

The MCCH works closely with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to aid in locating children who have been abducted and taken out of California or brought into California. The MCCH publishes and distributes a monthly poster and quarterly bulletin featuring missing children and dependant adults throughout California. The posters and bulletins are distributed to all California police and sheriff's departments, California Highway Patrol offices, district attorneys' offices, public primary and secondary schools, private primary schools, hospitals, state agencies, road side rest stops, other missing children clearinghouses nationwide and other parties determined appropriate by the Department of Justice.

The MCCH provides, free-of-charge, fingerprint cards to agencies for voluntary fingerprinting of children. The impressions are used to aid in locating and identifying missing children.

The section also is involved with the Missing Persons DNA Database and emergency alert systems.

Missing Persons DNA Database

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The Missing and Unidentified Persons Section also works closely with the Department of Justice Division of Law Enforcement’s Bureau of Forensic Services Missing Persons DNA Program. The Missing Persons DNA Program compares DNA samples taken from unidentified persons with DNA samples taken from personal articles belonging to missing persons, or from family members of high-risk missing persons.

The sole purpose of this program is to identify missing persons. No incentive or coercion shall be used to compel a parent or relative to provide a DNA sample.