Arrests are public records, so they should be fairly easy to access. If an arrest record has been sealed or is part of a national security record, it might not be available to the public. However, this is the exception, not the rule.
Free Public Police Records Online
Some states and counties have arrest records listed on their websites. If you have the person's name, you can search the site for his arrest record. Some websites require more information, such as date of birth. For example, New York State's Onondaga County Sheriff's Office website lets you search by last name to find people currently being held in the Onondaga County Justice Center jail, some of whom are awaiting trial and not convicted.
Other states and counties may not provide this information via search. For example, the Franklin County, Ohio, Sheriff's Office website provides an email address use when requesting a public record.
If your state or county doesn't offer an online arrest record resource or information on how to obtain public records, visit your state or county office and ask for the information you require. Some searches incur a nominal administration fee.
Remember, having an arrest record is not the same as having a conviction. An arrest is the physical apprehension of an individual by law enforcement. It does not mean he has been found guilty of any crime. A person with an arrest record is not necessarily a criminal. He may have been wrongfully arrested, mistakenly arrested and/or found not guilty of all charges.
How to Find Out if Someone is in Custody
If someone is in custody but not yet arrested, the paperwork may not yet be completed. If you suspect someone has recently been taken into custody, call or visit the local police station. If you think she has been arrested, call or visit the county jail. A bail bondsman might also be able to help you find out if someone is in custody.
If someone is suspected of committing a federal crime, such as an IRS violation, drug trafficking and possession, kidnapping, counterfeiting or mail fraud, she will be taken into federal custody. To find out if someone is in federal custody, visit the Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate locator and search by first and last name.
How Do You Look Up Someone's Criminal Record for Free?
Many companies offer an online criminal records check. Some sites, such as GoLookUp, offer free searches, but if you wish to pull a report, you have to pay a time-per-report fee. To pull several reports, a monthly membership program may be more cost effective. Other sites offer free or low-cost trial memberships. For example, on Instant Checkmate you can pay $1 for five days of service from the date of purchase.
The type of information you get from a criminal record search varies by site. GoLookUp's criminal record search reveals non-expunged criminal offenses, misdemeanors, traffic violations, drunk driving records, convictions, court subpoenas, testimonials and witnesses. On Instant Checkmate, a criminal record search provides information on arrest records, felonies, misdemeanors, warrants, traffic tickets, sentencing information, case numbers, court dates, offense descriptions and arrest location.
Read More: How to Find If Someone Has a Criminal Record
To find recent arrests, visit the state or county office website to search arrest records using personal information such as name and date of birth.
- Franklin County Sheriff's Office: Public Records
- Onondaga County Sheriff's Office: Justice Center Inmate Lookup
- USA.gov: Prisons and Prisoners
- Federal Bureau of Prisons: Find an Inmate
- Washington Access to Criminal History: Overview
- SearchQuarry: Free Criminal Records Check Online
- GoLookUp: Frequently Asked Questions
- FreeBackgroundCheck.org: How To Find Out If Someone is in Police Custody
Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.