When peace officers bring an individual into custody, they will create or update documents regarding the suspect as part of an arrest record. The creation of these records begins at the local law enforcement in the jurisdiction where the arrest happened. As law enforcement agencies in the country often collaborate in criminal investigations, local law enforcement typically forward arrest records and other criminal information to the state police, the agency responsible for maintaining a central database on the criminal history of individuals. Likewise, the state police also share arrest reports and criminal records with federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).
What information is in an arrest record?
The contents of these records depends on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. State laws give local law enforcement a degree of autonomy in creating arrest records using their records management system. Nevertheless, you can expect to see the following information in an arrest record:
- Personal information (name, age, sex, place of birth)
- Physical description (e.g., eye and hair color, weight, height, and identifying marks)
- Complaint information
- Officer’s notes
- Incident report
- Arrest report
- Arrest warrant
- Search warrant
- Bond status
- Bail requirements
Where can I find arrest records?
The office of the sheriff is the primary custodian of arrest records in any county. As these records are public information, you may visit the office of the sheriff to obtain arrest records on a suspect. The cost to obtain these records varies with jurisdiction, and the custodian will require the name of the suspect. In some counties, the sheriff makes arrest records available online via its official website.
While the information available online will suffice for most purposes, you may not find all of the information listed above online. Meanwhile, bear in mind that an arrest record is only one piece of a bigger picture, i.e., the criminal history information. Thus, depending on the information you need, you may need to request the criminal records of a person from the state law enforcement. Criminal records on their own can help establish definitive proof of the suspect’s guilt.