With Freedom of Information laws, finding basic information about incarcerated individuals is relatively simple. Once a person is arrested and jailed, their booking and arrest records become public information. However, information systems differ depending on locality and available resources.
Call the jail where the person is being held. The jail or sheriff's office usually has a general information line where you can call and request the booking department. If you know the name of the incarcerated person, you can ask a jail official for details, such as the bond amount and details of the charges.
Contact a public information officer with the police department. For information beyond the basics, you will sometimes be directed to a higher authority at the department.
Contact the locality's court clerk. Courthouse officials can provide the basic details of a person's arrest record and give you a list of future court dates. Make sure you know the person's full name and the date of arrest.
Go to the courthouse or check its website. After a person's arrest, their information will usually be entered into a computer database that is accessible to the public. Some courthouses records include updated information and include lawyers involved with the inmate's case. Some courts post the information online.
Call the prosecutor or public defender. Attorneys typically have more access to incarcerated individuals than the general public. The public defenders or prosecutors can inform you of any possible plea agreements or plans for pending trials.
- Smaller police departments may not be familiar with all public information laws. Most states have FOIA agencies willing to help if you are having trouble receiving your information request.
- If your information request about an incarcerated person is especially lengthy, police officials often require that you put your questions in writing, or submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request form.