US Arrest Records
How To Search For And Acquire Arrest Records
The United States is serious about its Freedom of Information Act. In late 2017, two state-level legislators were arrested for attempting to hide materials designated as public records.
Arrest records are public records created by sheriff’s departments and police departments nationwide. These records detail instances of police intervention and apprehension, or any event that leads to police or sheriffs becoming involved with the actions of citizens.
Arrests in the United States occur when a crime is solved or when an accidental arrest is performed. Statistics show that in 2017 less than 50% of crimes were solved. 62% of murders were solved, in addition to 53% of aggravated assaults, 35% of rapes, 30% of robberies, 22% of arsons, 19% of larcenies, 14% of motor vehicle thefts, and 14% of burglaries.
The United States Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) specifies that access to these records is basic right for Americans. The United States is committed to this transparency-boosting program; in 2017, the US Department of State spent nearly $37 million on processing and litigation costs related to FOIA requests. In the same year, they processed 21,648 FOIA requests.
Yet while access is available, knowing how to search for arrest records can expedite the search for the arrest record in question. In some cases, knowing where to find arrest records is the only way to start the process of record recovery through typical methods. There are alternative ways to acquire records if standard methods prove unfeasible, but here are the most common methods to clarify how to find police reports and arrest records.
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Places to acquire arrest records
In general, public records are kept by the government organization that created them. This means that court records, and police records for tried criminals are usually kept at courthouses. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies like state police and county sheriffs offer police reports, police records, inmate locator tools to show whos in jail, arrest reports, and documents offering details on criminal background checks. Please note that in some cases records may be sealed. This circumstance is much less common when looking up your criminal record, but is more common when looking up someone else’s.
Records that note different details of an arrest, apprehension, and incarceration are usually kept at police stations, sheriff’s department substations, or the law enforcement headquarters for their jurisdiction. From the web, a police record location can be determined by finding the website for a law enforcement headquarters, and finding their records keeping department. The website will also provide contact information if any difficulties are encountered. Either by contacting the headquarters, or by using information provided in their records keeping department’s online portal, curious citizens can determine which location hold the arrest record they seek.
Over the last 20 years, law enforcement agencies and government entities have begun to employ online police databases so citizens can acquire arrest records online. Typically, these arrest databases require some submissions to establish identity, and a fee to perform a search, though a free record search is not uncommon. If this information is available through government agencies, the starting point is usually featured on their public records or record keeping portals. If there is no clear path to the record keeping section, contact the law enforcement agency in question for more information, or use staterecords.org to simplify the search.
While arrests for specific crimes have fluctuated up and down, overall numbers show crime and arrests in the US are continuing on a downward trend since at least 1990.
Requirements for performing a criminal background search
Records are held by clerks and records departments in law enforcement agencies across the nation. Accessing them in-person requires some interaction with the departments, and each one will have special requirements when getting arrest records. These requirements can include presenting multiple forms of identification, filling out forms detailing a reason for wanting the record, writing letters of request, and paying for search and copy fees. Knowing how these four aspects work are crucial to understanding how to search for arrest records.
Most law enforcement agencies will require a picture ID or identity document be presented when requesting a record. These agencies are trained to look for illegal activities and odd behavior in the citizenry, and the first request made in almost any circumstance is a presentation of ID. This establishes a certain trust between citizen and officer during interactions, and gives the officer an avenue of follow-up should the interaction provoke suspicion. Interaction inside of county sheriffs departments, city police stations, and all other law enforcement buildings are not different. An officer or an affiliate will want to understand who a visitor is and why they are there. A good rule of thumb is to have at least two forms of photo ID available during a visit. The easiest ID to produce is the driver’s license, though secondary options vary. Passports, student IDs, and employee IDs are all options, though other forms do exists. For a complete list of accepted identifications, contact the law enforcement agency in question.
The forms required when requesting an arrest record are typically aimed at further identification of an individual, and ascertaining why a person is interested in collecting a record. Some records have sensitive information in them that can be misused to the detriment of the people involved, and law enforcement representatives are obligated to perform due diligence when copying these records. Forms in this category are typically brief, and usually only require a home address, contact information, and a written reason for requesting an arrest record. These forms are usually available at the counter inside of the law enforcement agency in question, though are typically also available online.
Arrests for crimes in the United States has fallen sharply since the early 90s, though public perception is that crime is growing.
Letters of request
These are rare when seeking out police reports and arrest records at a law enforcement level, though are more common when looking for trial records, court records, and inmate records. Essentially, these letters are meant to be a single page explaining the circumstances that led a citizen to needing a record. There are no correct or incorrect answers, but typically the use of the record is the focal point for law enforcement agencies. If a person wants the record for reasons that could lead to compromising situations for the people involved in the record, they may deny the request. Records should be used largely for educational purposes, and are generally not usable as a means to instigate legal action. When in doubt, the best course of action is to be honest in a request. Even if denied a record, other services exist that bypass this requirement.
Fees and payments
Typically, police reports and sheriff’s arrest records are free of charge. Many records require a search fee or a processing fee, but given the relative small size of police reports and arrest records, processing them is not a difficult task. The most common fee associated with these types of records are copy fees, which are usually only 10 cents per page. There may be some variation, such as a $1-10 introductory fee before charging only 10 cents per copied page of a report, but other fees, such as getting a digital copy on disc ($1-20), do exist. In some instances, having a criminal record check certified is important to its utility. To have a certified record, or made official, agencies will usually charge a nominal fee that varies largely depending on the jurisdiction. Some services, such as Staterecords.org, offer a concrete fee that does not change by jurisdiction.
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Know where to look before looking
When trying to find an arrest record, or if you’re wondering “where can I get a copy of my criminal record,” be sure to know which arresting agency performed the arrest in question prior to beginning your record search. Law enforcement agencies share information and work together, but their records are usually independent unless they all report to a central department like county sheriff’s substations do. This means that before beginning the record request process, it is important to know which department in which jurisdiction was responsible for the arrest in question. First, locate the court in which the arrestee was tried. From there, locating nearby law enforcement organizations shortens the list of possible arresting agencies.
The world of law enforcement, court, trials, and sentencing can be broad and convoluted. Most agencies have operated for close to a century, if not longer. Between new technology replacing old, a constantly cycling personnel roster, and the simple passage of time, trying to search arrest records may lead to many dead ends. It’s important to know the basics of the arrest in question, such as where it happened, when it happened, and who was arrested. Armed with little information, a curious citizen can locate a record given time, but without any info to go on, record location can be difficult. When beginning a search, be thorough with research before contacting a law enforcement agency for a record. It can save time in the long run.
Be patient, and polite
Officers of law enforcement are trained to deal with hostile, contentious, and belligerent people because that is their worst case scenario while on duty. When approaching a situation, there is no way for the officer to know what type of people are involved. They are usually responding because someone contacted them requesting assistance. Because of this, officers may come off as as cold or standoffish when interacting with normal citizens. They are likely judging the situation before deciding which behaviour is appropriate. If a record search is going poorly, or if an employee in a law enforcement station is not being helpful, it is important to keep an even temper and continue to ask questions. If the record exists at that location, they will attempt to locate it, but it may take time. Always remember to treat law enforcement officers and employees with respect and courtesy for a more expedient record recovery. If a complaint must be made, be sure to file it through official channels, again, in a calm and collected manner.
Records can be classified or sealed from the public
The Freedom of Information Act of 1967 provides the right for Americans to access and inspect records created by all government agencies, including law enforcement, courts, and incarceration facilities. This includes records held by local police and sheriffs.
In short, this means that these records are legally open to the public. Though this does not mean that all records are accessible. In certain cases, information may be withheld if certain circumstances are met. Records involving sensitive crimes like rape may withhold the names of those involved to protect them from the public eye. Another common instance in which records are declared sealed or classified, is when a juvenile is involved. When juveniles are convicted of crimes, these crimes are usually not pinned to their permanent record. In an effort to avoid making these crimes a permanent stain for juveniles, records concerning their crimes are usually sealed. The last common circumstance for a sealed record is when an injunction is made by a legal team representing an individual involved in an arrest. These requests are made when there is some risk that a person’s life may be forever hindered due to their involvement in a arrest; regardless of their guilt. In these cases, these records may be sealed and made classified to prevent the rediscovery of the people involved.
Knowing where to find arrest records, court records, and public records is an important part of remaining an informed citizen. With the advent of the internet, and services like Staterecords.org, finding, inspecting, and collecting records has never been easier. Citizens are encouraged to look into issues and events when further understanding is required. This helps to secure the United States’ promise of being a more free and open society for all.
Full Criminal Case Details:
- Domestic Violence
- Parole Violation
- Probation Violation
- Sexual Assault
- There were over 1,240,000 reported violent crimes in the United States in 2017.
- Between 2006 and 2010, approximately 3.4 million violent crimes went unreported.
- Around 73 million (29.5%) of Americans have criminal records, many of which are eligible for sealing or expungement.
- There were nearly 7.7 million property crimes in the United States in 2017. This represents a 3.6% decrease from the previous year.
- Some newspapers have reported the cost of a public record can cost between $5 and $399,000.
- In 2017, there were 1,920 presidential pardon requests. Of those, 142 were granted.