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  • Maddie Cohen

What Are the Criteria for Issuing an Amber Alert?

Amber Alerts are an emergency response system designed to share information about missing children.


They consist of a message sent to all cellular devices in a given area. These messages ask the public for help in locating an abducted child.


This post will offer an overview of the guidelines needed to issue an Amber Alert. The Department of Justice has laid out the following criteria:


  • The missing person must be under the age of 17.

There is some variability from state to state. Michigan, for example, has agreed to issue Amber Alerts for missing youth under the age of 18. However, Amber Alerts are designed specifically for minors. The system is above all else designed to locate and recover abducted children and teenagers.


  • The child must be in danger of serious bodily harm.

Before the police can issue an Amber Alert, officials must confirm the missing child is at serious risk of bodily harm or death. Naturally, a kid disappearing for a few hours during a game of hide-and-seek isn’t going to cut it—no matter how stressful the situation. Parents must prove their child is truly at risk.


  • Law enforcement must have enough information to believe the alert will help locate the child.

Descriptive information is critical. Details on the abducted child, the suspect, and the abduction itself—and ideally the suspect’s vehicle—are key components of an Amber Alert. Without this vital info, the system will be less effective. It’s designed, after all, to engage the public in locating the missing person.


The process of issuing an Amber Alert involves notifying the police, undergoing questioning, and consenting to a property search.


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