Depending on the state, it can be difficult to know how to find out if someone was arrested. Getting arrested can be scary and confusing for both the individual in custody and their loved ones. It is often a time of uncertainty, and if you don’t know for sure if an arrest has occurred, it can increase this anxiety. Ultimately, each state varies in how they make arrest records available to the public, as well as deciding who can access this information.
So, how can you know if someone has been charged for crimes and gone through central booking? Is there a check or research that can be done quickly to tell?
Yes, but you need to know where to look to find out whether someone was processed by law enforcement.
In the current digital era, more information is online than ever before, leading to both advantages and disadvantages. For instance, it may be helpful to find arrest records online, to track down people you know who have been detained. On the other hand, a lot of personal information, which people may not want to be made public, is now also widely available. Some state governments even mandate by law that arrest and offender records are available to the public.
In addition to official state government websites, as well as county booking websites, third party organizations often publish public records, criminal activity, and more about individuals who have had run-ins with the law, especially current and former inmates. For instance, the names of addresses of sex offenders is public information and available online. The need for this to be registered online is mandated by federal law.
If you need to find out if someone was arrested, you should first determine if arrest records are publicly and instantly available in your state. While some states have online databases to quickly determine if an individual was arrested, and where they are being held, other states require individuals to formally request a report, either online or in person. The following information will show you how to find out if someone was arrested, and find criminal records arrest records in all fifty states.
How to Find Arrest Records (Per State, Using Official Public Arrest Records)
Whatever the reason for your arrest record search, it can be tedious if you don’t know how to conduct the search in your specific state. Luckily, the table below shows you how to find out if someone was arrested, for all 50 states.
While some states have instant access to incarceration records, these records may or may not include pending charges, including public arrest records. Often, there is a more accurate list of those incarcerated in prison, rather than those in jail.
If you believe the database is not up to date, call your local law enforcement agency, to request more up to date arrest records, if possible. You can also ask how to find out if someone was arrested in your specific jurisdiction and if the agency records criminal records daily. In many states, you may have to search for your specific county’s daily jail records.
In some states, such as Florida and Alabama, it can cost a varying fee to conduct criminal records searches. However, this is typically a small fee, often for processing for the Department of Corrections or other relevant agency.
Remember that if you did not find someone on an inmate search, they may still be in a county jail. Knowing how to find arrest info is the first step. Call your local or county jail or law enforcement agency to get the most up to date information and reliable source. Many county jails also have a website for searching for names, and you can also conduct wider checks by state, like performing an Indiana background check or background check Washington state.
Can the General Public Find and See Arrest Records? What About Criminal Conviction Records?
Typically, arrest records are somewhat public in the United States, either instantly or upon request, depending on the state and its applicable laws. Whether or not these records are instantly available can also depend on the type of crime committed and other circumstances about the arrest. For example, the information surrounding arrests for ongoing investigations may not be posted in some states, so that the public cannot interfere in an active investigation.
If a state does choose to post its records publicly, these arrest records typically identify the person who was arrested and ultimately describe the incident that led to the arrest. If a victim was involved in the incident, they may also be described in the report.
Many people also wonder do pending charges show up on a background check, and that information is also available, depending on state law.
Some states do not publish arrest records, or limit the ability to access them, due to a variety of ethical and safety concerns. Sometimes, states do not make arrest records public due to the safety and privacy of the individual arrested, as well as the potential victim of a crime. Furthermore, many states do not post arrest records since an arrest does not necessarily mean that a criminal charge is final, and that the individual will then be found guilty if officially charged. For instance, charges can also be expunged after arrests, meaning that the charges were dismissed, and the party is alleviated of any blame. As a result, the ability to access arrest records per state varies widely. It is important to know what the laws are in your state, so that you know how to access arrest records if needed in the future. If you don’t know your state’s relevant laws, it can be difficult to determine how to find out if someone was arrested.
What is the Difference Between Criminal Records and Arrest Records?
In the United States, arrests are often made on the local level, in your jurisdiction, town or city. Therefore, in some states, the records are maintained by the county sheriff or the local police agency that made the arrest, rather than the state.1 To prevent any gaps in records, many states will often then compile these local arrest records into one database, so that interested individuals can do state-wide searches for arrests. However, sometimes, arrests for more serious allegations are made by state police or a federal agency, which could lead to discrepancies as to where the records are stored. If your friend or family member was arrested by a federal agency for a severe crime, this will likely not be available on your county’s arrest database. You will need to contact a state or federal agency to determine where they are being held, what crime they are being accused of, and how to contact them. Call your state police for more information.
That being said, it is also important to differentiate between the different types of records – arrest records and criminal records are just two specific types. Arrest records are distinct from a criminal records search, as they cover the specific event of an arrest, rather than all of the criminal activity related to one individual.
More specifically, criminal conviction records reveal misdemeanors, felonies, and other information related to final court decisions. These results will be final, unless they were expunged, or legally erased from your record.2 Arrest records will simply provide dates and circumstances around an arrest, and not necessarily indicate if the person was found guilty after the crime was charged.
If you are looking for someone who is already detained in a federal facility, you can also search a national database to locate the whereabouts of a federal inmate, made available by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
What If Someone I Know Was Arrested? Should They Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately After Their Arrest?
If you or someone close to you was recently incarcerated, they should quickly hire an attorney, rather than wait. Specifically, they should hire a criminal defense attorney or other lawyer that specializes in the area of law that applies to the crime committed. If they are familiar and experienced in this area of law, they may be better equipped to help you.
It is recommended that you hire an attorney as soon as possible, so that you have the best chance at fighting your charges and being prepared for your trial. Depending on the legal severity of the crime that resulted in your arrest, bail may or may not be posted, especially if you plead guilty at your arraignment. Ultimately, the more time you have to prepare for your case, the better chance you have at providing a strong defense.1
If you are having difficulty locating a friend, family member, neighbor, or other person you know, and have reason to believe they were arrested (even for a DUI), you should contact your local government or police station, either online or by phone.2 You should also refer to above table to determine how you can find arrest records in your specific state. It is important to pay attention to the information applicable for each state, as each may have their own laws determining the availability of criminal information.
When someone is arrested, they first go through “booking,” before they are taken into custody. During the booking, the police collect information, both from the individual and from their own records, to identify the person detained. This information could include, but is not limited to depending on the state:
- criminal charges
- prior criminal record, criminal charges
- other legal records, criminal records
- arrest records, arrest documents, and
- mug shot.2
As previously mentioned, most people are typically arrested by their local jurisdiction. The sheriff’s office or local police force usually permanently stores arrest records, arrest documents related to the reason and evidence for arrest, and other information on the inmate or accused.
However, not all arrests can be treated equally, depending on the type of crime committed. If the individual was arrested, charged, and found guilty to be a sex offender, they must register as a sex offender and update their registration in each jurisdiction they reside, to ensure that the public has access to this information. Sex offenders must also register in the jurisdictions they are employed and attend school, or any other area they officially frequent. This registration is protected by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which applies in all fifty US states, Washington DC, and federally recognized Indigenous lands. Failure to register as a sex offender when you have been charged as one is considered a federal crime.
It is important to know how to see if someone has been arrested for several reasons. First, you may be trying to locate a friend, family member, colleague, or other person you know who you suspect has been arrested. You could be worried about their safety, especially if this is the first time they are being arrested. If they have gotten arrested before, for a crime such as a DUI, you might also be worried about their health.
Second, you may have safety concerns about yourself. If you just had a new neighbor move in, or are dating a new person, you may want to be aware of the person’s arrest records. This may be especially important to you if this person is around your children or other people important to you.
It is also important to remember that if you think someone you know was arrested, there are often online records to find someone’s record. You can also use these records to find the location of someone if they recently became an inmate. If online records are not available, there are still legal ways to track down the individual. Try calling your local police station or using a third party organization’s site that stores arrest and prison records.
Getting arrested is already complicated enough for both the individual in custody and their loved ones. Since each state varies in how they make arrest records available to the public, it can be difficult and time consuming to track someone down. Luckily, due to the internet, it is now easier than ever to determine how to find arrests. Reference the table above to learn how to find out if someone was arrested, in all 50 states, or contact a reputable organization for help.
1The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan. How Can I Know if I’m Being Charged with a Crime? 7 June 2021. 27 October 2021. Web. <https://www.noonanlawma.com/how-can-i-know-if-im-being-charged-with-a-crime/>
2The Law Dictionary. How To Locate Someone Who Has Been Arrested. Nd. 2 November 2021. Web. <https://thelawdictionary.org/article/how-to-locate-someone-who-has-been-arrested/>