A traffic report, stolen car report, or other incident report may not be available immediately. You can generally call or visit the police station for status. Some jurisdictions allow you to access an electronic report either through the police department's website or the LexisNexis crash system.
Obtaining the status of a police report typically requires a phone call or an email to the police station, and in some cases an in-person visit. You might need to check status of a police report when the responding officer doesn't provide it at the site of the incident. A report comes in handy for insurance and legal purposes. For example, if you are in a car accident, you'll need an incident report so that an insurance company, attorney, or judge can determine who is at fault. Certain reports, such as those involving a juvenile, an arrest or fatality, might not be released online, and may need to be requested in person or via mail.
Online, by Phone, and in Person
Check the police department's website for information on obtaining police reports. The site will typically provide instructions on ordering a report, but may also provide a phone number or email address you can use to confirm whether your report is ready for pick-up. In most jurisdictions, the records unit or a report processing unit typically handles police report requests. This is the counter or office that you must visit in person or call to request status of a police report.
Some jurisdictions allow you to order a copy of the police report through a secure portal accessed through the department's website. To use this service, bear in mind that you will need to have a valid e-mail address and generally, you must be the person who reported the incident – not a relative, friend, witness and so on. Make sure you have valid identification.
Reasons for Police Report Delays
If you didn't get a police report or incident number at the site of your incident, it can make it difficult to check status, specially if you are trying to do this online. A station clerk or officer may be able to locate the status of your report with the date/time and location of the incident. Not having your report or incident number can also delay receipt of your report when requesting a copy. Sometimes police reports are delayed because the officer has yet to process the paperwork, or there is a mistake with the paperwork that must be corrected before generating a report.
Authorization To Receive Police Report
Some police departments will provide information on the status of a police report only to the people named in the report. They might otherwise require a retainer agreement from a lawyer requesting status or a notarized letter from the person named in the report, authorizing release of information or the report to a third party. You may also need to provide identification.
Traffic Collision Reports Available Online
LexisNexis, a commercial vendor, provides police reports for vehicular accidents. Police departments that use this service are able to capture crash data at the scene, and a full report is then available to permitted persons within 24 hours after law enforcement generates the report. This service is generally only available to named parties, that is, the persons who were involved in the accident, as well as commercial account holders, for example, lawyers and the the police department itself. To search for your report, enter your state and jurisdiction, and any of the following:
- Full name and date of incident
- Full name and address
- Report number
Not all police departments make their reports available through third-party vendors. The police department, rather than LexisNexis, sets the fee for the report, but you remit payment to LexisNexis.