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How to Obtain a Police Report and Court Records?
What Are the Police Reports?
A police report is the written record of an incident in which police were involved. Police records, including police reports, are used in many ways, but primarily support any resulting prosecution in court. Police reports and records include:
- arrest reports,
- investigation reports, and
- incident reports.
Are Police Reports Public?
Police reports are usually public records and can be obtained online because law enforcement is supported by tax funds. Exceptions to the rule include those records that involve juveniles, ongoing investigations, records that include sensitive personal information such as medical records, social security numbers, or information about victims of sexual or domestic abuse. Arrest records, including mug shots, are becoming more difficult to access by the public as well because some jurisdictions consider them sensitive information that should not be released unless a conviction has resulted. Individuals who have had minor convictions sealed or expunged may also seek to have arrest records suppressed.
Incident reports are easier to access by the public because these documents are considered the official record and are often required for things like medical coverage and insurance claims. Incident reports describe how altercations have occurred, including auto accidents, assaults, burglaries, larceny, and other police-involved situations.
How Do I Get a Copy of a Police Report?
Once the jurisdiction for the police report has been identified (this is the law enforcement body responsible for the location or incident that took place), a request must be made by calling the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction or filling out a form.
Tips for Getting a Police Report
Gather all of the information you know about the incident, including:
- the date it happened
- the names of people involved
- the names of any police who responded, and
- an incident number if available.
Public records may divulge the location and content of police records, including reports to local elected boards (governmental sources) that oversee police. Court records may also contain police records that were used to build a case for prosecution.
Recordsfinder.com may also help you find police records including arrest reports, mug shots, and detailed information about the incident. This database is searchable by name. Recordsfinder.com culls information directly from millions of police reports and is updated frequently.
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
Court records are the written documents that result from any prosecution or magistrate action. These include:
- police records,
- investigation records,
- restraining orders,
- witness statements,
- sentencing records,
- probationary records,
- parole records, and
- restitution records.
In many jurisdictions court records are digitized and available online for download. The extent of these records is determined by the individual court and may be limited by resources (time and money) available.
Are Court Records Public?
Most court records are public. Viewing records in person at the courthouse is a free way to access them, but making copies or requesting that records be mailed will incur a cost. Exceptions to this rule include proceedings that involve juveniles, documents that include sensitive personal information of individuals involved (including children, social security numbers, and information involving victims of sexual assaults). Records such as these are public in order for the public to see and examine fairness and due process that is guaranteed through the U.S. Constitution. Records of magistrate decisions, which are legally-binding settlements of minor incidents that do not involve a judge or jury, are also public records.
Tips for Accessing Court Records
Court records can be significantly important to individuals who must prove their innocence or who are seeking to collect damages awarded through a lawsuit. In order to get copies of court records, follow these tips:
- make sure you know which court to approach for records (state or federal, criminal or civil),
- collect all of the information you know about the case, including the names of the parties involved, the dates of the court proceedings, etc.,
- check for a court website where records may be requested or downloaded;
- the clerk of the court is the office responsible for records, so questions and requests should be directed to them, and
- prepare to wait for full documents (if available) as they must be accessed and reviewed for appropriate content by court personnel. Full transcripts of court proceedings may take longer.
How Do you Find Public Records for Free?
Millions of pages of public records may be accessed through Recordsfinder.com by name search, making it simple to retrieve police and court records. Confirming that the records are available and where they are available may allow you to visit the courthouse where they are located to view them for free.
Use Governmental Sources to Get Court Records
If records are difficult to obtain for reasons that court officials won’t make clear, you may make a Freedom of Information Act request, which is an official demand for public records. If the FOIA is not respected, contact your state’s Office of the Attorney General.