A bill that would make clear 17-year-olds in South Carolina should be treated as missing children so that police can start looking for them immediately has moved out of a state Senate subcommittee.
The bill is now in the Senate's full Judiciary Committee after a unanimous subcommittee vote Tuesday.
"If a child is 17 years old, there is a gray area when handling the filing of a report," said Jeff Moore, executive director of South Carolina Sheriffs' Association.
In most cases, a person becomes an adult in South Carolina at age 18; however, in missing-persons cases, the law says an adult is 17. Police act almost immediately when a missing persons report is filed on a child, but many agencies require a 24-hour wait before acting on a report of a missing adult.
"The bill would close the gap for 17-year-olds," said Mark Keel, chief of the State Law Enforcement Division.
You are able to file a missing child report immediately, but you must wait 24 hours to file a missing person report at most S.C. agencies, according to Moore.
Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, introduced the bill a year ago. It came out of a case in which a Charleston County mother wasn't able to file a missing-child report on her 17-year-old, Moore said.
McConnell was not at the meeting, and his office said he was ill and could not be reached for comment. The subcommittee chairman, Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, did not say why it had taken so long to bring the bill up for hearing, and he could not be reached for comment later.
The bill has not faced any opposition, said J.J. Gentry, the Judiciary Committee's staff attorney. "If the bill stays non-controversial, it could go through quickly."