How to Find Out If Someone Has Been Booked in Jail

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A party can find out if someone has been booked into jail by conducting an online search for the offender’s name on the inmate locator service of the county or city in which the offender was arrested. Online searches may not show recent bookings, such as bookings in the last two hours. The party may need the first name and last name of the offender, the offender’s birthdate or birth year, criminal case number and the identifying number or code created by the state or arresting agency, for example, a New York State Identification Number (NYSID). A party can also call the jail, provide the offender’s full name and birthdate and ask whether the offender was booked into that jail.

When the Offender Isn’t in Jail

The offender may not be in jail because she may have been released, taken to a rehab center, transferred to the custody of another jail or prison or taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A jail that shows an offender’s booking time and date is also likely to show her release time and date. An offender may be in the custody of the jail, but physically taken out of the jail if she needs medical treatment at a hospital. A party can be arrested, but not booked into jail. A party can find out whether an offender has been arrested by searching the online arrest records of the particular law enforcement agency.

How Bookings Are Organized

A county or city may organize bookings by date, offense or name. Occasionally a county takes time to rebuild its custody and release lists. At that time, booking information may not be available online. To get information about an inmate during such a period, a party should call the jail or file a public information request with the county or city.

What Inmate Locators Provide

An online inmate locator may show the offender’s name, booking time and date, booking number, arrest location, bail, charges and the offender's city, state and ZIP code. The inmate locator may also show the offender’s identifying information like occupation, birthdate, gender, age, hair color, eye color, weight, race or ethnicity and skin tone. The inmate locator may provide whether the offender was arrested on a warrant, the offender’s court case number and the judge assigned to the offender’s case.

When a Juvenile Is Arrested

Typically, a juvenile who has been arrested is not placed in a jail. He may be placed with an agency that will shelter, care for or counsel him or in a juvenile detention center. A juvenile detention center is sometimes called detention or juvenile hall. A juvenile detention center may be part of a youth-oriented complex that also contains juvenile court and juvenile court services and is separate from the adult jail.

A juvenile who is not an offender may also be placed in a detention center. Examples of non-offender juveniles placed in detention centers include truants, at-risk youth, children in need of services and dependents.

When an Offender Cannot Be Located

A law enforcement agency may not provide arrest records or booking information if the offender is arrested in relation to an ongoing investigation. When a law enforcement agency thinks information poses a risk to public safety, it may not release certain records. When an offender is arrested for a sex crime, a law enforcement agency may close a record or make only certain information available to the public. The law enforcement agency may keep the name, offense and incarceration facility of the offender private.

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About the Author

Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.