How to Obtain a Police Report, Arrest Records and Law Enforcement Case Files

Police officer report
Learn how to get a report that was filed by police.

Citizens can file police reports for wide variety of reasons such as: domestic disputes, traffic accidents, burglaries and home invasions, fraud, theft, stalking, violence, and many other reasons. To file a report, citizens usually begin by calling 911, or their local police department’s non-emergency line, to report the incident. Once the incident is reported, law enforcement officers are dispatched and arrive on the scene. Then they evaluate the situation, make observations, interview witnesses, record data, and complete the forms required by their local police department.

Police officers also initiate the filing of a report to document incidents such as car accidents, burglaries, assaults and robberies, just to name a few.

A great deal of information is recorded in a police report to ensure thorough and accurate investigations and to support criminal proceedings, if they become necessary. The information contained in the typical report may vary from county to county, but most capture very similar information.

What type of information and data is in a police record?

  • The names of the parties involved in the incident
  • Date of the occurrence or incident
  • Location of the occurrence or incident
  • Reference number (if available)

Information that can be obtained from case documents includes identifying information of all involved parties and witnesses, such as full name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, and any other identifying information. The law enforcement case file can also contain motor vehicle information, as well as specific details of the incident being documented and any evidence recovered.

Examples of police reports may include but are not limited to: domestic disputes, traffic accidents, thefts, fraud, assault, burglaries, and stalking incidents. Other information that may be available includes crime surveys, crime statistics, calls for service, and traffic accident surveys.

How to Obtain a Police Report

By law, certain police records and violation reports maintained by the Police Department are accessible to the general public. To obtain a copy of a police report you must complete a request form, or a request for public records. Then, you must either mail or deliver the request for the law enforcement documents to the appropriate Police Department. Some sheriff’s offices and government departments have online forms or email contacts to submit requests online. A valid ID and payment of a fee is usually required to obtained copies of the document.

Check your city’s website, or the local police department’s website. They may have a form posted online that you can print out and complete to request a police report.

Important Notes Regarding Submitting Requests for Your File

  • It may take a few days or more to obtain the official documents
  • Charges for obtaining copies of the documents may vary by city or jurisdiction
  • Very few departments allow access to records online

Have you ever wondered if someone was a criminal, arrested for violating the law? Generally, case reports are a matter of public record and can contain a wealth of information. A public record is simply information maintained by a government agency that can be linked to a specific person. You can complete a thorough background check of someone just by researching these records.

Where can I find a police record and related documents?

Access to these records varies greatly from one jurisdiction to another. In some areas, the information may be freely available, while in other areas the information may only be accessible to the parties involved in the incident or their agent (such as a lawyer). It is also possible that the record of a specific incident is readily available, but the identifying information of involved parties has been removed.

All requests for copies of case files are made through the records division of the reporting agency. Some have online services, and you can receive the information directly over the Internet or through your personal e-mail. Other agencies require you to appear in person to request the information. They will normally charge a nominal processing fee to provide you with a copy of the report. The originating agency may also require a form of written disclaimer stating the information contained in the document will not be used for solicitation purposes.

If you wish to request a copy of a police document package, you will normally be required to provide the first and last name of at least one of the involved parties, the location, date, and time of the incident, and in some cases, the incident or case number.

Some jurisdictions have regionalized their crime information into a joint database. Such information systems allow citizens to research crime statistics, view detailed crime maps, see who is currently in jail, search for arrest warrants, and retrieve information about sex offenders living or working in a given area. Much of this information is readily available via the Internet.

Whatever your reasons for requesting police records, begin by researching the requirements of the police agency responsible for the jurisdiction in which the incident occurred, then follow their exact protocol for requesting and receiving those records.

Finding arrest records across multiple jurisdictions

Conducting your investigation can become complicated if you need to do a background search on someone who has lived in multiple jurisdictions. To simplify things, an internet-based specialized investigation company can provide a comprehensive, multi-state search in one easy step. This allows you to search multiple records from all over the country quickly and easily, without the hassle of tracking down individual records from various government entities. Whether you want to find out what someone’s criminal past contains, or you are trying to locate someone who was involved in an accident with you, a background check using police records will likely give you the results you seek.

For example, LexisNexis provides a nationwide search for accident reports. Just visit the site and complete the online form. You’ll need to provide the state, jurisdiction and one of the following:

  • Report Number
  • Last Name and Date of Incident
  • Last Name and Street

If you need to run a background check of your own, use Intelius to find people, conduct online background investigations, search public records, find missing persons, and more.

View more Law Enforcement Resources. Also, learn about Police Drones, the latest in Law Enforcement and Investigation Technology.


  1. Why a person who is involved in accident , must pay tax and reqest report and wait for it for 6 weeks?
    Is it not correct everyone involved in a accident to receive a copy of the record without applying for one?

  2. I am trying to get a copy of the police report on by sons death and they will not give me a copy I was his next of kin I was told I could not have a copy so how do I go about getting one they have gave me a run around now for 3 years

    • Did the department give you a reason? Is the case still open? In some cases, law enforcement will refuse to release a report if doing so will impede the completion of an investigation, or if it might endanger a witness. Check to see if your state has an official public records act that specifies who can get a copy of a report and under what circumstances. You may also consider hiring an attorney to subpoena the report.

  3. Yes I was caught once overlimit catch of strips bass and they abandon me from fishing and I don’t get why they charge me with conspiracy to commit I felt like I was set up how can I get a copy of report y they would investigate on me and if some one set me up

  4. What if you are the victim of stabbing and are denied report, even though it was never sent to the prosecuting attorney for action?

    • Victims of crimes have a legal right to a police report pertaining to their incident. A copy of ht report should have been provided to you when you filed. If not, you should be able to contact the appropriate police department to obtain a copy. Contact them and find out what their request procedures are.

  5. how can i get my police report ?????
    I need to know where can I go ??? can someone tell me please this police report was like 6 years ago

  6. Is it called a police report when someone is killed by the police? Or is it an incident report? I’m not the next of kin, ie, the wife, but I’m an immediate family member. Am I entitled to get the report?

  7. I need the police report case number, just the number from where I was the victim. All I got is the address my name and I don’t remember the date

    • You might want to check with the Department that responded. They can usually run a search based on your name and address. Also if you know the place of the incident to which they responded is usually a big help, too.

  8. what information do i need to get reports? just a name? or do i need to know an approximate date? also can i get info about an incident where no one went to jail or had any court dats from the incident?


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