How do I Access Arrest Records?

N. Madison
N. Madison

The steps you’ll have to take to access arrest records may depend on where you live and the laws in your area. Different jurisdictions may have varied laws that govern who can access arrest records, how they can access them, and how the information may be used. In most places, however, there are online databases you can search to find the information you need. You may also consider hiring a professional service to find the records for you; this will likely be more expensive than searching on your own, but you may find the records you need faster and with far less difficulty when you use such a service. In some places, however, you will have to visit the jurisdiction's criminal or court clerk’s office to access these records.

Arrest records may be held in a court's record system.
Arrest records may be held in a court's record system.

Typically, arrests that lead to criminal charges become part of a jurisdiction’s public record. This often means the arrest records are held in a court’s record system, and they may also be uploaded to a database that is available to the public. If the records you need are not available online, you may have to call the court that dealt with the individual for whom you are seeking an arrest record. Usually, a court representative will be able to tell you the steps you’ll need to take to access these records. In other cases, however, you may be required to visit the office in which the records are held and search through the arrest records in person.

Arrest records are public information, and may be printed in local newspapers.
Arrest records are public information, and may be printed in local newspapers.

It is important to understand that you may not have success with accessing all types of arrest records. In some cases, these records are sealed and inaccessible to the public. For example, you may not have success with obtaining arrest records for a minor. Likewise, if a case was expunged, you will likely be denied access to the record.

Accessing arrest records may be easy in some jurisdictions, but finding the record you need can be a challenge. If you do not know the jurisdiction in which the party was arrested or you are lacking important identifying information, the task can be long and difficult. To make your job easier, you may consider hiring a firm that specializes in this type of search to do the job for you. Using a public record search service is not a 100-percent guarantee of success, however. Even professional, experienced firms may sometimes have difficulty locating records.

Employers may look at prior arrest records before hiring someone.
Employers may look at prior arrest records before hiring someone.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

Rotergirl

Arrest records are public, except for juvenile records and expunged records. Someone can always ask to see the first page of a record if he or she knows the person's name.

Sometimes, people are confused because usually, media outlets only routinely release the names of those who were arrested on felony charges. However, reports for misdemeanors are available, as well.

The main things to know are the person's name, where the arrest was made, and which department made the arrest. For example, if it was the city police force, then the researcher would go to the city police department. If a county deputy sheriff made the arrest, the records would be at the county courthouse.

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