Texas Attorney General Opinion: GA-125 Page: 1 of 5
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ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
November 25, 2003
The Honorable Florence Shapiro Opinion No. GA-0125
Chair, Education Committee
Texas State Senate Re: Whether a minor may be classified as a
P.O. Box 12068 "missing child" under article 63.001, Code of
Austin, Texas 78711 Criminal Procedure, if the minor's legal custodian
knows the minor's whereabouts (RQ-0057-GA)
Dear Senator Shapiro:
You request our opinion on the definition of "missing child" in Code of Criminal Procedure
article 63.001(3).1 One of your constituents reported his seventeen-year-old daughter as a missing
child. See Request Letter, supra note 1. She had left home voluntarily, and your constituent soon
determined his daughter's location and relayed that information to the police. See id. The police
department declined to take possession of the child, stating that because her location was known, she
could no longer be reported as missing and the department had no authority to act.
The age of the child is significant because a seventeen-year-old who voluntarily leaves home
without parental consent and without intending to return may not be taken into custody under the
Juvenile Justice Code, Family Code title Il. An unemancipated2 seventeen-year-old is not a "child"
within the Juvenile Justice Code. See TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. 51.02(2)(A)-(B) (Vernon 2004)
(defining "child" as a person ten years of age or older and under 17, or a person between 17 and 18
who engaged in or is alleged to have engaged in certain conduct before becoming 17). A child under
17 who is voluntarily absent from home without the consent of his or her parent or guardian "for a
substantial length of time or without intent to return" has engaged in "conduct indicating a need for
supervision," id. 51.03(b), and may be taken into custody by a law enforcement officer. See id.
52.01(a)(3). In contrast, a seventeen-year-old who engages in the same conduct may not be taken
into custody pursuant to the Juvenile Justice Code. See Tex. Att'y Gen. Op. No. JC-0229 (2000)
'Letter from Honorable Florence Shapiro, Chair, Education Committee, Texas State Senate, to Honorable Greg
Abbott, Texas Attorney General (May 22, 2003) (on file with Opinion Committee) [hereinafter Request Letter].
2An "emancipated child" has been freed of the disabilities of minority. See TEX. FAM. CODE ANN. 1.104
(Vernon 1998) (removal of disabilities of minority by marriage), ch. 31 (Vernon 2002) (petition to have disabilities of
minority removed), 101.003(a) (Vernon 2002) ("child" is a person under 18 who is not married or has not had
disabilities of minority removed), 154.001(a)(2) (Vernon 2002) (emancipation by marriage, removal of disabilities of
minority, or operation of law for purposes of child support) [hereinafter "emancipated child"].
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Texas. Attorney-General's Office. Texas Attorney General Opinion: GA-125, text, 2003; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth275021/m1/1/: accessed May 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.