A party can usually get a police report by making an online, phone, in-person or written mailed request to the police department that issued the report. An email request typically counts as a written, mailed request. A police report may also be called a crime report or an incident report. Many police departments and sheriffs’ offices have websites that explain how to get a police report. Since a police report is a type of public record, a request for a police report is a public records request.
Who Can Get a Police Report?
State law determines who can get a copy of a police report. In some states, such as California, only certain parties can get a copy of a police report. In Los Angeles, authorized parties include a victim, the victim’s representative and the person charged with the offense. Other states, such as Maine, have freedom of access statutes that allow other parties to get a copy of a police report. A police department may charge a fee per page or by the document for a records request.
How Long Does It Take?
The person requesting the report must allow time for a law enforcement officer to complete it. How long an officer will take depends on the incident that occurred and the officer's workload. In Maine, a police report may take up to five days to complete.
Information Needed for a Police Report
A party should provide as much information as possible to request a police report. Relevant information includes: the time and date of the incident; what offense occurred (like theft); the number of the police report; the name of the victim; the victim’s date of birth; the place at which the incident occurred; the name and badge number of the police officer called to the address; the name of the suspect; the suspect’s date of birth; and the date and location of the suspect’s arrest.
A party should also provide the insurance policy number or claim number; whether or not the requesting party is an insurance company; a release from the victim; if the request is from an attorney; and proof of relationship if the requesting party is a parent of a minor victim or the spouse or relative of a deceased victim.
Read More: How to Get a Police Report
Get a Traffic Accident Report
A party should provide the time, date and location of the accident; the name of the person or people issued a ticket; name and badge number of the police officer called to the accident; descriptions of the vehicles involved; names of the people involved; and dates of births of the people involved. A party should also provide the license plate numbers of the vehicles involved. It helps if he can describe what type of accident occurred, like a head-on collision, and whether an ambulance or fire truck was called.
When a Record Is Sealed
Some police reports are sealed. Absent a very good reason, a party will not be able to get a copy of a sealed police report. A police report may be sealed when a person charged with the offense has been acquitted, or the case has been dropped and the person requested that the record be sealed. A party who wants a sealed police report should consider consulting an attorney.
Not All Information Is Available
Certain portions of a police report may be exempt from release to the public, either permanently or in certain situations. A police officer will remove exempt information from the report in accordance with state law. In Florida, common exemptions are Social Security numbers, medical information, bank account information and the identities of the victims in certain crimes.
- City of Santa Rosa: How Can I Obtain a Copy of a Police Report?
- Los Angeles Police Department: Obtaining Police Information
- Tallahassee Police Department: Incident Reports
- City of Cincinnati, Police: About Police Records
- New York City Police Department: Record Requests
- Newark, Delaware: Records Requests and Permits
- Cumberland County, Maine: Records Request
- Maine, Your Right to Know: The Maine Freedom of Access Act
- Los Angeles Police Department: File a Police Report Online
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.