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What is an Arrest?

An arrest occurs when police or other law enforcement officers take an individual into custody of the respective state or federal government, stripping that person of their personal freedoms provided by the United States’ Constitution. Upon being arrested, the arrestee is notified of the crime s/he is being arrested for, and read their Miranda Rights. These rights include that the individual has the right to legal counsel, the right to remain silent, and the right to prevent self-incrimination by complying with an interrogation by officials.

When someone is arrested in the U.S., they are typically handcuffed and taken to the local jail or prison to be processed while awaiting bail or arraignment by the courts. During this processing, a mug shot is taken as well as fingerprints, and information is recorded such as current address, driver’s license number and other identifiers during the intake process.

According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Database, more than 14 million arrests took place in the U.S. in 2008.

Information about an Arrest

Arrest records are created with each arrest that takes place, and the arrest report is filed with the respective government entities for future reference. This happens whether the individual is ever convicted of the crime s/he was originally arrested for.

Arrest reports are available from the local law enforcement offices, and generally contain dates of arrest, mug shots and the outcome of the court appearance following the arrest. If the arrested individual was convicted of the charge and served jail time for the crime, this information is generally available as well.

For the most complete arrest information, you may visit your local law enforcement agency’s website, or request a RAP sheet from the FBI.  

An arrested individual is considered to be “in custody” if s/he is unable to leave the premises of his or her own accord. Any admittance or statements acquired from an individual are typically not admissible as evidence in the court of law if his or her Miranda rights were not read during the arresting procedures.

Implications of an Arrest

An arrest may be made if an individual is suspected of committing a crime, or to prevent a crime from taking place. You are not considered to be arrested until you are in the custody of police or law enforcement officers. This means that traffic stops and interrogations where the subject is allowed to leave at any time do not constitute arrests.

Being arrested creates a report and record that is maintained by the arresting agency for future reference. These records can be searched for and viewed by the public, and are often viewed when pre-employment checks are required for specific positions. If you are applying to a professional school, you may also be asked if you have ever been arrested in the past. In this case, you will often be required to provide details of the arrest and the disposition of the case.

Though public sources offer access to these records, private sources provide more complete information that spans both state and federal databases.

What are Arrest Records?

Arrest records are created with each and every arrest that takes place, regardless of disposition of the case. They are typically maintained with the arresting agency, whether it be the state police or FBI. However, if the arrestee is not found guilty of the original charge, these records may be expunged after a certain period of time. In addition, juvenile records are kept from public viewing to protect the accused’s identity.

Information Contained in Arrest Records

These records typically include an arrest report, which provides the identity of the arrested individual, his or her names and aliases, the dates of arrest, the offense s/he was charged with, and the court’s disposition on the case. These reports include both misdemeanor and felony arrests, and may also include mug shots of the accused.

Other information found on the report includes the arresting agency, the race and sex of the arrestee, the place of birth, height, weight, eye and hair color. The original and filed charges by the prosecutor, as well as the classification are also included.

Each state maintains the arrest records for a prescribed amount of time, and many offer a search service online.

Reasons for Accessing the Records

Arrest records can be useful when conducting a background check for employment purposes, or simply to verify that your own record is correct. Using a private service can also allow instant and accurate searches for both federal and state records at once, saving time and effort using all available databases.

What is a Conviction?

When someone is charged with a criminal offense and the court determines s/he is guilty of the crime, this is considered a “conviction” in criminal law. Regardless of whether the conviction is a result of a judge or jury trial, this is reflected in the individual’s criminal history record for years to come.

Information in Records of Convictions

When you access someone’s criminal record, you will see the dates of arrest, formal charges and any convictions decided upon by the court. These convictions are present whether the offense was a felony or misdemeanor, or any petty offense that the court has determined the party guilty of. You may also be able to access probation, fine, prison and probation information as well as dishonorable military discharge records.

Uses of Conviction Records

Frequently, employers will ask job applicants of any arrest, conviction or other criminal history during the interview process. Upon conducting a criminal record check, the employer may also inquire about the circumstances of the conviction. However, an employer may not refuse to hire someone due to a conviction unless the said crime is substantially related to the job duties to be performed.

Finding Records of Convictions

Due to federal and state privacy laws, personal information such as home addresses and Social Security numbers are redacted from the records. In addition, if someone has had their records expunged you may not be able to access histories of criminal convictions. Each state varies, so you’ll need to check with your local law enforcement agency.

Criminal History

If you need to establish whether someone has a criminal history, you first must gather as much information about them as possible. Past addresses, aliases, date of birth and even Social Security information may be used to check for criminal records in someone’s name.

Reasons to Check for a Criminal History

Criminal history records may include arrests, warrants, convictions, drunk driving records and even sex offender records. Background checks which screen for these issues in a person’s past are often conducted prior to employing them, especially in sensitive positions where they may be in daily contact with children or the elderly. It is also generally a good idea to screen potential tenants, babysitters or other workers who have access to your personal property for a criminal history.

State vs. Federal Criminal Histories

One thing to keep in mind is that state records are always kept completely independent of federal records. In addition, state records do not translate to other states, so you must go directly to the source to find them. This means that if the search subject was arrested in New York but now lives in Washington, checking records in Washington will not necessarily reveal their criminal history from New York. This is why private searches for records are well worth the minimal cost--to ensure a complete check of multiple databases, screening for both state and federal records.

You may also conduct a quick search at the National Sex Offender Public Website. In addition, every state maintains its own criminal check system, so you must approach your local state police department if you plan on searching for publicly held records on your own.

What are DUI Records?

DUI records are considered part of a larger group of criminal records that may be connected to any driver’s past. These drunk driving records can include records of DUI, DWI, OWI or other charges according to a specific state’s definitions and statutes regarding levels of the offense. You may want to access DUI records in order to ensure accuracy of your own record for insurance purposes, or to check a potential employee when one of their primary responsibilities will be driving.

Levels of DUI Offenses

Every state has now adopted laws which consider any level of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.08 percent to be a criminal driving offense. This BAC is measured using a breathalyzer or other chemical test, and field sobriety tests may also be used by an arresting officer. Some states offer additional offenses, namely Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), which may be filed against a driver if his or her BAC is under 0.08 but over a different, specified level, such as 0.04. These charges are further categorized as either misdemeanor or felony offenses.

DUI Penalties

A DUI record will contain dates of arrest, name of the driver, official charges filed, and disposition or outcome of the case. If someone’s DUI records state that s/he was convicted of the charges, there will also be information available about the sentence imposed. This may include fines, jail time (one year or less for misdemeanor and over one year for felony charges), suspended license, DUI school and/or probation.

Finding DUI Records

The National Driver Register, though not an official database, may hold records of alcohol-related driving offenses. However, you may also access information regarding convictions, suspensions and violations in a driving record using private databases that span state and federal sources.

What is a Felony?

Every criminal charge is classified as either a felony or misdemeanor offense, depending upon the respective state’s laws regarding the issue. Federal classifications of felonies and misdemeanors remain the same no matter where the offense is committed in the country. There are several differences between the two types of offenses, namely potential penalties and progression of the criminal case in court.

Felony vs. Misdemeanor Penalties

In general, a felony charge carries the potential of a prison term which lasts more than one year. Misdemeanors carry possible jail time of one year or less. A felony may also carry with it the death penalty in cases of murder, for example.

In addition, felonies are further classified according to their ‘degree.’ Felonies may be considered a first, second, third, fourth or fifth degree felony, depending upon the state; some states assign letters to these varying degrees. Maximum allowable penalties and fines increase with each degree, and higher degrees may mean longer or more severe mandatory sentences.

When convicted of a felony, it usually remains on the individual’s record for anywhere from 7 to 14 years or indefinitely, depending upon the state. Records of state felonies can also be expunged, but this is not true for federal felonies. In addition, some states will strip felons of their voting rights or right to bear arms for a pre-determined amount of time.

Finding Felony Records

Felony records are maintained by the imposing state or federal law enforcement agency. This obviously differs among states, though federal records may be requested from the FBI. In order to save time and effort requesting reports from multiple agencies, a private search offers access to multiple databases in one location.

What is a Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are federal and/or state criminal charges that are considered less severe than felony-classified offenses.  They may include charges and/or convictions related to theft, domestic violence, drunk driving, prostitution, vandalism, drug possession, public intoxications or disorderly conduct.

Classification of Misdemeanors

Much like felony charges, misdemeanor offenses are classified as class A, class B or class C. Each class carries subsequently more severe potential and mandatory penalties, with class C offenses being the least so. Each state determines the classification of these misdemeanors, which may vary across state lines. However, federal misdemeanors remain the same across the country.

Misdemeanor Penalties

In general, a misdemeanor is punishable by one year or less in prison and carries lower fines than a felony charge. Misdemeanors that carry a sentence of 6 months or less are considered to be “petty.” Repeat offenders typically receive harsher penalties than first-time offenders, and the place of incarceration depends upon whether the crime is a state or federal offense.

Federal and state prisons typically hold prisoners convicted of felonies, while local county jails hold those convicted of misdemeanors. A misdemeanor conviction may also result in fines, probation, loss of privileges such as professional or driver’s licenses, or any combination of these.

Misdemeanor Records

Misdemeanor records are considered criminal in nature, and may be requested from applicable state and federal agencies.

In order to access state criminal records for someone, you need to contact the relative state’s Department of Corrections. However, these records are not recognized by states other than the one holding the records, so you must either conduct a check in every state the subject has lived, or utilize the services of a private record provider.

What are Mug Shots?

Invented by Allan Pinkerton in the 19th Century, mug shots are photographs taken of an arrested individual during the booking process of an arrest. Typically, the arresting agency takes a front and side photo to comprise the mug shot file. These mug shots are intended to help identify the arrested individual in the case that he or she is ever wanted by the law again in the future, or if their information is to be posted on a “most wanted” or sex offender list.

Availability of Mug Shots

Every state differs in its treatment of mug shots and the public’s ability to access them. Some states will post mug shots of every arrestee on its website, and others will only post mug shots on Most Wanted or sex offender lists. The National Sex Offender Public Website at:

However, there has been some debate as to the accessibility of mug shots to the public. Many courts have refused to allow mug shots to be entered as evidence in a jury trial to prevent any implication of guilt. In September of 2009 in a case in Oklahoma, the Department of Justice determined that mug shots were protected by privacy laws, and thus refused to release photos of federal inmates to the public. Conversely, the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the photos may be released within that circuit only in 2005.

If you need to find someone’s mug shots, you may try searching the site of the facility where they were incarcerated, or utilize private services which will ensure that multiple databases are searched to provide the most complete result in minimal time.

What is a Police Report?

In order to conduct a thorough background check on another person or verify your own past, police records offer a way to learn about arrests that may not have resulted in a conviction, traffic stops or parking tickets, and firearms licenses. Police reports are always created and maintained at the state level, and are generally available through the local state police department. Although each state varies according to accessibility and privacy laws, most offer the ability to search these records by name to either confirm or deny any history with local law enforcement.

Information Contained in Police Reports

Many police departments offer information regarding the type of offense committed, the victim’s name, date of the crime and the location. Victims who are juveniles and victims of sex crimes are not revealed to the public. Offenses are generally categorized as either crimes against people or crimes against property, or other crimes such as traffic offenses.

If you want to explore police reports regarding a specific crime, you will find every type of documentation of the event as possible. This means that information gained from interviews on the scene, witness information, observations by the officer on the scene and any other actions taken when either stopping a driver or responding to a call are included in police reports. They are generally not accessible by the public until the court has ruled and the case is considered to be “closed.”

Searching for Police Reports

Police reports are usually found with the respective state police department, county or city government, and may be accessible through their official websites. You may also utilize the services of a private company, saving you time and effort. These police reports can be invaluable when determining the safety level of a new city you’re considering relocating to.

Federal Bank Robbery Defined

Robbery is often defined by state statutes as theft or larceny of property or money through the use of force or fear. When a deadly weapon such as a gun or knife is used, charges may be escalated to armed or aggravated robbery. This crime is distinguished from burglary because robbery requires that a victim be present and he or she is threatened with or suffers actual injury or harm. Federal law outlines potential penalties of robbery and burglary under U.S. Code, Chapter 103. Section 2113 specifically addresses bank robbery.

Section 2113

This section describes bank robbery as the attempt to take property or money by force from any bank, credit union or savings and loan association. Convictions of bank robbery can lead to fines and/or up to 20 years in prison according to this section of the U.S. Code. Actually taking the property or money away, when its value exceeds $ 1,000, causes fines and/or up to 10 years in prison. If this property is valued under $ 1,000, the maximum sentence includes fines and/or up to 1 year in prison.

Even if a person did not actually steal the money or property, but is simply in possession of it and knows it was stolen faces the same sentencing. If the use of a dangerous weapon is also used in the process of stealing the property, the suspect faces fines and/or up to 25 years in federal prison. If the suspect attempts to avoid apprehension, causes the death of someone during the theft or forces someone to accompany him during the crime, he faces fines and/or up to 10 years in prison; if death of a victim occurs, the suspect faces a death sentence or life imprisonment.


Section 2113 defines a “bank” as any bank which is a member of the Federal Reserve System or any bank or institution which is operated and organized under U.S. law. This includes foreign bank branches and any institution whose deposits are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

It further defines “credit union” as any federal or state-chartered credit union which is insured by the National Credit Union Administration Board. A “savings and loan association” refers to a federal or state savings association with accounts insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, operating under U.S. law.

Historical Bank Robbers

Historically speaking, one of the most noted and celebrated bank robbers in U.S. history was Jesse James. After the civil war, James robbed banks with his brother and outlaw gangs, with the height of their activity peaking between 1866 to 1876. In 1876, they attempted to rob a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, which resulted in the capture or death of many of these gang members. Law enforcement continued to increase pressure and search attempts to find and apprehend James and his cohorts, until he was killed by Robert Ford on April 3, 1882.

Federal Codes Regarding Burglary

Burglary is often defined by criminal law as the unlawful entry into a structure, regardless of whether it is a home, business or other type of building. At the same time, the intent to commit any crime, even those other than theft or larceny, must also exist. This does not mean the intended crime necessarily takes place. For example, a criminal may intend to break into a business to steal money from a safe, but finds the money is already taken. Even though the criminal steals nothing, he has still committed burglary by entering the business.

Burglary charges may ensue after an individual simply enters an open door, as he does not need to use force or physical breaking and entering to be classified as a burglary. Typically, there is no victim present when burglary is committed. U.S. Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 103, Sections 2111-2119 concerns the crimes of both robbery and burglary.

Section 2111

This section states that when someone takes something of value or attempts to take it from a person within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the U.S. using force, intimidation or violence, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Section 2112

This section states that when someone robs or attempts to rob someone of personal property of the U.S., they face a sentence of up to 15 years.

Section 2113

This section pertains to bank robberies specifically. It states that anyone who enters a financial institution protected by federal law with the intent to take property or money faces up to 20 years of imprisonment. This applies whether the individual successfully takes the property or not. If he physically takes possession of money or property valued over $ 1,000, he faces up to 10 years in prison and/or fines, and if it does not exceed a value of $ 1,000 the maximum sentence is 1 year in prison and/or fines. This section also regards individuals knowingly in possession of stolen property or money from a bank. In some cases, especially when force with a deadly weapon is used or death occurs, this crime can carry a life sentence in prison or a death sentence.

Section 2114

This section regards mail, money and other property of the U.S., and anyone who has lawful custody of that property. Assault with the intent to rob these individuals carries a sentence of up to 10 years for the first offense; if the victim is wounded during the assault or the suspect uses a deadly weapon, this increases to up to 25 years. Being in possession of this property carries an additional sentence of up to 10 years and/or fines.

Section 2115

This section states that attempting to or forcibly breaking into a U.S. post office results in fines and/or up to 5 years in prison.

Section 2116

This section, similar to section 2115, regards cars, steamboats or other vessels utilized by the post office. Sentences can include fines and/or up to 3 years in prison.

Section 2117

This section states that anyone convicted of breaking the lock and/or entering a railroad car, aircraft or other vessel with the intent to commit larceny may be fined and/or sentenced up to 10 years in prison. This section also states that if this crime falls under state jurisdiction and is judged by a state’s prosecution, the suspect cannot be prosecuted by the federal government as well.

Section 2118

This section concerns taking controlled substances by force from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent. If convicted, this crime carries a sentence of fines and/or up to 20 years in prison. This also applies when entering the business or other structure where this controlled substance is held. If violence is used or injury occurs during the burglary, prison time can be raised to 25 years.

Section 2119

This section applies to taking motor vehicles which fall under federal jurisdiction, such as vehicles transporting interstate or foreign commerce. This crime carries a sentence of fines and/or up to 15 years in prison; prison time is increased to 25 years maximum when serious bodily injury occurs during the theft. If death results from the crime, imprisonment can range up to a life sentence, or the suspect may face a death sentence.

Types of Criminal Charges

Criminal charges vary widely based on the severity of the crime committed. The crime committed may fall under the category of a petty offense, misdemeanor, or felony. According to the type, severity, and frequency of the crime, the punishment will also vary.

Petty Offenses

Petty offenses are a group of misdemeanors that don’t warrant jail time. Usually a person who commits a petty offense will only get a ticket or a citation.  They will be tried on their first appearance in court and typically receive a fine.

Petty offenses are much milder than other offenses. The defendant will probably not receive the right to a jury trial, but this is not considered a violation of rights because of the nature of the crime.

Petty offenses include minor traffic violations—such as tickets—parking violations, and infractions of local ordinances which are not severe.

In states that have adopted the three strikes law that says on the third felony the person receives mandatory life imprisonment, petty offenses do not count as “strikes.” It is generally advised to not fight the petty offense, simply pay the fine and move on.

Misdemeanor Offenses

Misdemeanors are more serious. A person convicted of a misdemeanor may face a heavy fine, or a jail sentence not exceeding a year. If the person receives a jail sentence it will be carried out at a local jail and not a state or federal prison.

Misdemeanors generally do not go the grand jury. They can, however, be generated by grand jury indictments if they occurred during a felony. Defendants are not allowed a court-appointed attorney, and will not be awarded one if they cannot afford one.

Those convicted of a misdemeanor, such as simple assault, are still allowed to vote, practice licensed professions, serve on a jury, and serve in the military.

In states that have adopted the three strikes law, a misdemeanor may be counted as a third “strike” if the person has already been convicted of two felonies. Otherwise the misdemeanor is not included in the strike count.

Felony Offenses

Felonies are more serious still, and they include capital offenses like first-degree murder. A felony is considered a crime punishable by more than a year in prison—for example, a year and a day is punishment for a felony offense, whereas a year is punishment only for misdemeanors.

Defendants accused of a felony are guaranteed the right to a court-appointed lawyer in the event they cannot afford one. Felonies are also charged only upon a grand jury indictment.

In some cases an accidental death caused during the commission of a felony could be considered murder. If an accidental death occurs during some lesser crime, such as a DUI or DWI, then it is only considered manslaughter.

Those convicted of a felony face several restrictions on their rights. They may be unable to serve on a jury, vote, practice certain jobs, own guns, and serve in the military. They may also be forced to register as an offender relating to the felony committed, such as a sex offender or narcotics offender.

In states that have adopted a three strikes law, on the third felony committed the individual will be sentenced to a mandatory 25 year to life imprisonment. This is without the possibility of parole.

Information Contained in Criminal Background Records

Criminal background checks may be performed for a number of reasons. Frequently, prospective employers and landlords request background checks, which may include unexpected information.  It is important to know who will request a background check, and what will be contained in it when it is requested.

What is and isn’t in a criminal background check?

Items included in a background check performed by a prospective employer can range from driving records and vehicle registration to court records and sex offender registration. Criminal convictions and charges will generally show up on an in-depth criminal background check, whereas arrests will not.

Prospective employers may also request information on medical and military records, bankruptcy and credit records, education records, and state licensing. Educational, medical, and military service records are confidential. They require your permission to be released.

Things not of public record, such as criminal history, are compiled by law enforcement agencies and can only be viewed by potential employers in certain fields. These fields include law enforcement, security guard firms, public utilities, and childcare facilities.

Arrest records are public records. However, in many states, employers are not able to search for an arrest record of a potential employee. Exceptions to this rule include if the arrest resulted in a conviction or if the potential employee is on trial or out of jail pending trial. 

Any conviction may be viewed on the criminal record unless it has been expunged from the record. If the record is successfully sealed or expunged then it cannot be viewed, except by law enforcement and immigration agencies.

Other things not included in background checks include bankruptcies if they are more than ten years old. After seven years, civil suits, civil judgments, records of arrest, paid tax liens, and accounts placed for collection are not reported.

Who may want to perform a criminal background check?

A criminal background check may be performed by a potential employee. An employee may perform these checks to avoid negligent hiring lawsuits or to follow federal and state laws regarding required checks for certain jobs. They may also perform checks because they no longer feel secure. Current events and news often drive employers to perform checks they might not otherwise have performed. 

Landlords may also perform these checks to screen potential renters. Generally they will perform criminal background checks for reasons similar to those a potential employer may have. 

An individual may also want to check their own criminal background. The FBI may provide criminal records for an individual requesting them. They will only provide records to the individual identified in the records, and fingerprint identification is required. 

Others who may feel the need to run a criminal background check may not be legally able to do so, or only be able to access limited information. Potential spouses, parents or guardians requiring a babysitter, and others may desire a background check. Often, the only way to access any type of criminal background information about someone other than yourself is to search through public records. These include arrest records, court records and inmate records held by the local and state government agencies.

How to Conduct an Arrest Inquiry

If you are considering hiring a new employee, babysitter or any other individual who will have access to your personal property, you may want to conduct an arrest inquiry to screen his or her past. Before you can do so, you must first understand where you should search for arrest information, depending upon the type of details you need to access.

History of Addresses

Prior to searching for past arrest records, you need to have some information about the person you are researching. Their first and last name and prior names, addresses and states of residence over the past several years is often required to conduct an efficient search. This information is needed because an arrest inquiry must be submitted to the arresting agency or locality, as this does not transfer to other databases. Federal records are searchable from nearly anywhere, but state-specific arrest records will be maintained with the corresponding Department of Corrections or police department.

You may also decide to ask the individual if he or she has an arrest in their past, the charges faced, dates of arrest and the disposition or outcome of the case. Having a date of arrest will make your arrest inquiry process much easier, as this is a common search field used when obtaining arrest records.

Approaching State and Local Agencies

Most state Departments of Corrections and even some local sheriffs’ offices maintain websites that allow the public to search for arrest information. You can simply search for an individual by name, arrest date and even the type of charge or offense committed. However, these records are often only available electronically for a number of years before they are archived. In the case that the arrest happened too long ago, you may need to approach the state’s archives office.

These locally-maintained electronic records will protect the personal information of the arrestee such as address, phone number and social security and driver’s license numbers, but will offer mug shots to confirm identity. If the charges were sexual in nature, each state maintains its own sex offender website where registered offender information is maintained for public display.

Many times, these websites are updated on a daily basis and will also include all arrests that recently took place for the most up-to-date information. Furthermore, additional case information is available through local court clerk’s offices if you would like to know if the subject of your search was convicted and/or the outcome of the case.

Federal Arrest Inquiries

Federal offenses are investigated by the FBI, and suspects are often arrested by the U.S. Marshals Office for questioning. An FBI Identification Record request may be submitted by the individual by following the guidelines at http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/fprequest.htm.  A fee, cover letter and fingerprints are required for this search to be conducted. Furthermore, law enforcement officials may access the National Crime Information Center at http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/doj/fbi/is/ncic.htm to conduct an arrest inquiry and learn more about a suspect’s criminal past. However, these federally-maintained records are not accessible by private parties.

Finding Crime Rate Information in Your Area

Prior to moving to a new neighborhood or going on vacation, you may want to learn about the local crime rate of specific crimes in the area. A crime rate is generally calculated on an annual basis by local government agencies, according to the crimes and cases that they investigated. The federal government also reports national crime rates for various crimes to the public, which are available at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm.  These archived crime rates and statistics include data gathered from across the country according to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system requirements.

Data Included in Crime in the U.S. (CIUS) Reports

CIUS reports are generated on an annual basis by the federal government. Each time a crime occurs, it is reported by local and state law enforcement agencies via the UCR system, which is how the CIUS is created. The public may visit the CIUS reports and filter results for their own state, region or local area to determine the crime trends, number of specific types of crimes and even statistics concerning hate crimes.

Hate crime statistics and the number of law enforcement officers assaulted or killed are special sets of data maintained by the government. The Hate Crime Statistics section separates information by the type of victim, incident or offense committed, offender information, and location. Many hate crimes are motivated by race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and/or disability. Victims may be individuals, businesses or groups, and these crimes may take place in residences, schools or even parking lots.

The Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted section of the CIUS report includes statistics regarding officers who are feloniously killed, those who are accidentally killed and/or assaulted, as well as a dedicated section for federal officers who are killed and assaulted.

Within the general CIUS statistics section, offenses committed are categorized as violent crime and property crime. Clearances, or those offenses which are “closed” through arrest or some other means, are also provided for public view. Crime rate information is further provided under homicides, trends, rates and weapons details.  Information is also provided about arrests and police employees through the CIUS report. Information gathered about arrestees includes age, gender, race and offense committed or charged with.

For example, the 2008 arrest rate tables provided by the CIUS such as http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2008/data/table_30.html include information regarding arrests made in relation to the following offenses: murder and non-negligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault burglary; larceny-theft; motor vehicle theft; arson as a property or violent crime; other assaults; forgery and counterfeiting; fraud; embezzlement; stolen property crimes; vandalism; weapon crimes; prostitution; sex offenses; drug abuse violations; gambling; domestic offenses; driving under the influence; liquor offenses; drunkenness; disorderly conduct; vagrancy and other offenses; suspicion; curfew and loitering violations; and runaways.

However, the UCR Program does not collect statistics and information regarding juvenile suspects and/or offenders. It also does not gather or provide information regarding the number of individuals who were convicted, prosecuted and/or imprisoned for a crime.

Creation of Arrest Information and Records

Arrest information included in arrest records can vary widely according to the arresting agency’s requirements and recordkeeping practices. Individuals may search for arrest information in someone’s past prior to hiring them as a new employee, or giving them access to their personal property and/or home. Other reasons for requesting arrest information may be to confirm your own arrest history or research a potential spouse’s legitimate past. Attorneys also request this information when preparing for a criminal defense case, especially if their client is a repeat offender and he or she needs information about past case dispositions and defense strategies.

Process of an Arrest

When someone is placed under arrest by an authorized official, they are notified of the criminal charges they face and read their Miranda Rights if applicable. These rights are only read if the charges faced can lead to incarceration if convicted, or if the officer plans on interrogating the individual.

After handcuffing and taking the individual into custody, the arrestee is transported to the local jail or prison to undergo standard booking processes. These include recording personal information such as address, phone number, social security and driver’s license numbers, employment information, fingerprints and mug shots. This arrest information is recorded in the permanent arrest record, but identifying information is often redacted and protected from public view.

Charge and Bond Information

After the arrestee is processed, he or she awaits an arraignment or bail hearing in front of a judge. This appearance may not occur for days, forcing the individual to remain in prison until then. At an arraignment hearing, the formal charges entered against the suspect are read to him or her, and a plea is formally entered into the court system in response to these charges.

If the suspect faces misdemeanor charges, the judge may even release them on their own recognizance and simply inform him or her of a subsequent court date to appear. Records from these court proceedings are maintained by the court clerk’s office, and considered part of the arrest information that may be searched by the public in the future.

During a bail hearing, the judge will determine what, if any, the bail amount should be. This amount is largely dependent upon the suspect’s past criminal history, the seriousness of the charges he faces, and his flight risk. For example, a suspect with family ties in another country who has been charged with drug trafficking will likely either be denied bail completely or a significant bail amount will be set.

Recent arrest information including the date of arrest, the arrestee’s name and mug shot, bail amount, charges faced and disposition of the case is typically found on the local law enforcement agency’s website. Some localities may update this information daily, which can be helpful when a loved one is missing and you suspect he or she may be in custody. You can also learn about upcoming appearances, hearings and other court dates concerning that inmate’s case.

How to Conduct an Arrest Search

When someone you know is missing, it can be a very stressful ordeal trying to find them. Perhaps they simply didn’t return home last night, or you suspect they may be in trouble. It is often difficult to file a missing persons report with the local police for an adult before they have been missing for a full 24 to 48 hours. In that case, you can still check local hospitals or local jails by conducting an arrest search.

Online Arrest Search Tools

Most local sheriff’s offices offer the ability to search for arrests made in the past 24 hours through their website. This may not be true for very small towns, as electronic means of providing this information may be very expensive. A few local governments still simply print arrests made in the paper the following day.

Search Criteria

Most of the websites allow you to search within a specified time period for arrests by first or last name, city of residence or even type of offense they were arrested for. As an example, you may look at the Durham County Sheriff’s Department in North Carolina website at http://www.co.durham.nc.us/departments/shrf/IPS/index.cfm.  Here, the dates of confinement and release date are also provided, if they apply. All charges that the arrestee faces, as well as any bond amount and whether it has been secured is listed for each individual. This website simply lists them alphabetically from the past 24 hours, but other sites may allow you to search for a specific name or even provide mug shots of the individuals to confirm identity.

Court, Hearing and Bond Information

If the arrestee you’re interested in is still incarcerated, you should be able to access information about any upcoming hearings or bonds that have already been set. You may be directed to the court’s website to view the schedule for arraignment and bond hearings, as several arrestees are presented before the judge for these types of hearings in a designated daily time slot. This way, you can plan to be present if you please, or even contact an attorney to represent your loved one.

Your arrest search may also show that your loved one has already attended a bond hearing and a bond has been set by the judge. In this case, you may contact a bail bondsman and try to secure funds to have your loved one released from jail. If bond was denied or not set for any reason, this may also be listed as the current status of the arrestee.

Victim Information

If you are a victim of a crime committed by a recent arrestee, you can access the VINE link system provided by local and state governments across the country. This system allows you to be notified when the person of interest in your case is released or any other change to his or her status changes. You may search the VINE system by facility name, offender ID number (which is assigned at the time of processing), name and/or date of birth and age range.

Information in Arrest and Jail Records

Arrest and jail records are commonly required when conducting a background check or verifying information for the courts. Arrest and jail information is usually maintained by the arresting agency such as a police department or sheriff’s office, or even the FBI.  Jails maintain information about current and past inmates for a specified period of time, according to the local and state statutes. Most jails offer the ability to conduct an inmate search online through their website.

Arrest and Jail Booking Process

When a suspect is arrested, he or she is handcuffed and taken to the local jail for holding and processing. If the criminal charges carry a potential jail sentence and the arrestee will be questioned by police, their Miranda Rights must be read. Upon arriving at the jail, mug shots are taken, as well as personal information such as social security and driver’s license numbers, home address and phone number. If the charges are related to drunk driving, the offender’s vehicle will also be towed and impounded at the local city lot.

Depending upon the charges faced by the arrestee, an appearance before a judge may be necessary after the arrest and jail booking. This arraignment and/or bail hearing will take place before a judge who will officially read the charges faced, and ask the defendant how he or she pleads. If a bail amount is determined, this will be finalized and entered into the record. Otherwise, a future court date will be set and the defendant is generally released on his or her own recognizance (OR).

Public Information in Arrest and Jail Records

Depending upon the offense, some localities will offer the ability to search for arrest and jail records through specialized online sites. For example, many states have active sex offender sites that allow the public to view mug shots, incarceration and probation sentences, and the specific charges the offender was convicted of. Others will also provide the registered offender’s home address and even place of employment.

Recent arrests are often easily searched through the jail website, by name, date or offense. However, some local governments may only offer this information for convicted individuals who are currently serving a jail sentence. In this case, inmates may be searched by name or inmate number. Results will often show you the bond amount that has been set by the judge, the formal charges against the defendant, visitation schedules, expected release date if known or future court dates, disposition of the case, and descriptive and personal information such as height, weight, hair and eye color, sex and date of birth.

If you know someone who was arrested and booked at the local jail, you may also fund his or her commissary account to purchase needed items or learn how and when you may visit them. If you are searching for arrest and jail records, you must become familiar with local laws; some states may not allow arrest information to be public unless the individual was convicted and/or served time at the local jail.

Understanding Laws Regarding a Citizen's Arrest

A citizen’s arrest is an arrest made by an individual who does not possess law enforcement credentials. Each state’s laws vary according to who may make a citizen’s arrest and under what conditions, but most often it may be made by any person in order to prevent a crime or apprehend someone suspected of committing a crime. Currently, North Carolina does not allow citizens arrests.

Requirements to Make a Citizen’s Arrest

Some states allow civilians such as illegal aliens or immigrants to make a citizen’s arrest, as well as groups of people rather than individuals. An example of a citizen’s arrest is when a department store catches someone shoplifting and detains them while waiting for an officer of the law.

Citizen’s arrests originated as part of the English common law, before structured law enforcement departments existed. Most states now allow them to be made when someone commits a criminal felony that is witnessed by a civilian. However, the laws vary according to when a citizen’s arrest may be made in cases of misdemeanors or crimes not witnessed by the arresting individual. Some states may allow a citizen’s arrest in any of the above stated cases, while others may only allow them in the case of felony crimes or those committed in the arresting individual’s presence.

How to Make a Citizen’s Arrest

Each state also differs according to requirements for how to carry out a citizen’s arrest. Common requirements and guidelines do include that the arresting party should inform the individual why he or she is being arrested. The civilian making the arrest may also use a reasonable amount of force to enter the individual’s private residence if needed. Following detaining the individual, the arresting civilian must bring him or her to the appropriate law enforcement agency without significant delay. These citizen’s arrest laws are often how bounty hunters operate and detain fugitives of the law.

Problems Associated with a Citizen’s Arrest

Though citizen’s arrests are legal and allowed throughout the country, significant penalties may be faced if local and state laws regarding them are not followed. If a citizen’s arrest is made in the wrong way or rights of the arrested individual are violated, the arresting civilian may face civil and even criminal charges in the future.

Civilians are well-advised to become familiar with the local and state laws regarding citizen’s arrest before attempting them. Vital details to learn include in what situations they may be carried out, how they must be carried out, and details about the information that must be relayed to the arrestee and how they must be turned over to the appropriate authorities.

It is also important to be well aware of your rights if you are placed under citizen’s arrest. Use of unnecessary force or detaining you for a crime which does not allow a civilian to arrest you are all reasons to pursue a civil or criminal suit against that person. Thus, carrying out a citizen’s arrest can be risky and laden with legal implications.

Reasons for Issuing an Arrest Warrant

When law enforcement officials want someone in custody in connection with a crime or a judge needs to force someone to appear in court, an arrest warrant is commonly issued in their name. Arrest warrants allow officials to arrest someone without risk of legal recourse in the future for taking the person into custody. As long as an arrest warrant is not served, it is considered “outstanding.” If the arrest warrant is issued due to someone being suspected for a violent crime such as murder or rape, law enforcement may attempt to serve the warrant by raiding the suspect’s home or approaching his or her loved ones’ residences.

Reasons for Issuing an Arrest Warrant

Arrest warrants are often issued for three main reasons: failure to appear in court, failure to meet obligations of a criminal sentence such as violating parole requirements, or being named suspect in a crime. Often, when an arrest warrant is issued in someone’s name, the authorities will send a letter advising the individual of such an action taking place. However, sometimes you may not be aware of an arrest warrant in your name until you are advised of its existence during a routine traffic stop.

Failure to appear in court is often considered contempt of court, and the judge will issue a bench warrant, which is a type of arrest warrant, in the person’s name to bring him or her before the bench. Violations of parole such as failing to attend meetings, classes or leaving the country may lead to the issuance of an arrest warrant, but state statutes will vary on this requirement. More often, an ongoing investigation will lead to one or more suspects being named due to evidence recovered or tips from witnesses and the public. When this happens, the investigators and police must have an arrest warrant issued and signed by a judge before serving it and taking the person into custody. However, some states may allow the suspect to be arrested without a valid warrant, provided enough evidence is collected by investigators first.

Searching for an Arrest Warrant

Arrest warrants are maintained and filed by the court and corrections systems, and often you may simply search for outstanding warrants through government offices. You may search by providing your name or social security number (though this information is protected from public view), but they are not available to the public. Quite often, you may only search for arrest warrants in your own name.

These arrest warrants do translate across state lines, however, and are also searchable by the FBI and other federal agents. For instance, if an arrest warrant is issued in your name in Montana but you move to New York, officials may search for your name and identification and find the outstanding warrant. This allows them to arrest and extradite you to Montana in order to answer to the arrest warrant. This may happen during a routine traffic stop, when the officer requests your identification, or while applying for official local documents, employment or identification issued by the government.

Requesting Arrest Records from Local Police

Each state is charged with maintaining its own laws and regulations concerning the information available to the public and that which is kept private in arrest records. Arrest records are one of the most commonly sought after pieces of information as part of police records. These may be maintained by the state police department, the county sheriff or even the U.S. Marshalls’ office if the person was in the custody of the federal government.

Keep in mind that just because arrest records exist, this does not mean that the arrestee is guilty of the crime. His or her guilt or innocence will be decided in the future by the courts. However, you may still be able to access information which tells you why a person was arrested and what charges he or she faced. For example, a potential employee may be arrested under suspicion of drunk driving, but have the charges later dropped due to dysfunctional testing equipment used by the arresting officer.

Following the Paper Trail

After contacting the relevant police or other law enforcement office in search of arrest records, you may be directed to the local county clerk’s office if quite some time has passed since an arrest. Your state or local government may even allow you to search the records online. Within arrest records, you should find the type of charge, whether it was a felony or misdemeanor, physical descriptions of the arrestee and possibly even a mug shot. Other information found in an arrest report includes the place of birth, court dates and disposition. These details will lead you to the correct court in order to research the course of the case, pleas entered, judgments and penalties.

Requesting Arrest Records

If you visit the site http://answers.usa.gov/cgi-bin/gsa_ict.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=5849,  you’ll find the Department of Corrections for your state to begin your arrest record and report search. However, federal inmate and arrestee information is held with the federal government. For these records, you’ll need to visit the Bureau of Prisons’ page at http://www.bop.gov/inmate_locator/index.jsp,  where you can utilize their free inmate locator. These records are maintained for federal inmates from 1982 onward. You can also request a copy of a federal RAP (Record of Arrest and Prosecution) sheet from the FBI at http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/fprequest.htm.

Utilizing Police Records

Although personal identifying information and that of any minor offender is protected by privacy laws, police records which include arrest reports offer the ability to research anyone’s past and character. One thing which you must keep in mind is that each state maintains its own arrest records, and they do not carry over to other state governments. This means that you must look for police records within the states where they were created, or else risk missing them altogether. This is not true for federal records, of course.

Requesting these police records for potential employees, tenants and even spouses can prove beneficial before trusting someone new. Inquiring about your own state’s laws regarding releasing this information and approaching the correct agency will greatly reduce the time and energy required to obtain the correct police arrest records.

Researching FBI Arrest History Information

Each time an arrest takes place, a permanent record is created and maintained by the arresting agency and government exercising jurisdiction over the subsequent criminal case against the arrestee. Researching someone’s arrest history may be necessary when conducting pre-employment checks, professional school applications or even considering marrying someone.

An arrest history is often found with local and state law enforcement agencies, but these records do not translate across state lines. However, federal and national arrest histories do. Thus, a search through the FBI’s database is often the first method used when conducting a background check searching for arrest history information. Searching FBI records may also be necessary to provide your own record for international adoption purposes or living and/or working in foreign countries.

FBI Identification Records

Each time the FBI arrests an individual, a Criminal History Record (a.k.a. “Rap sheet”) is created. These records are commonly called “FBI Identification Records,” and include fingerprints, the agency responsible for arresting the individual, arrest date, arrest charges and disposition of the case if available. However, FBI Identification Records are not only created due to an arrest; they may also be created when someone is employed by the federal government, serving in the military or pursuing naturalization through the U.S. government.

Individuals are able to request their own FBI records to verify the information is true and correct and to challenge any information which is not. These requests are processed by the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, and may only be submitted by the individuals themselves.

Requesting Your FBI Arrest History Information

Complete instructions for requesting an FBI Identification Record is available at http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/fprequest.htm.  Each request must be accompanied by a signed cover letter including the mailing address, telephone number, email address of the individual and any other parties included in the record. A fingerprint card with all 10 fingerprints must be included; these prints should be taken by a technician, often available at your local police station or sheriff’s office. Finally, $18 for each person paid via a credit card, money order or certified check to the Treasury of the United States must be included. These items must be sent to the FBI CJIS Division – Record Request, 1000 Custer Hollow Road, Clarksburg, West Virginia 26306, and 13 weeks should be allowed for processing.

If no arrest history or record exists, you will receive a letter stating that no record was found. If a record does exist, you will receive it in the mail. As of 2009, in order to protect personal identifying information, fingerprint cards will not be returned to the requestor.

The data included in the FBI Identification Record is gathered from a variety of local, state and federal law enforcement and other agencies, so any inconsistencies or incorrect information must be disputed with the reporting agency. Each agency has its own procedures in place to dispute this information, and the FBI cannot change the information in the record until appropriate notification from the respective agency is received.

Searching County Arrest Details Online

County arrest information is often maintained and made accessible by the local sheriff’s department and/or courthouse. Many county governments now offer county arrest information online through the sheriff’s office website, such as that of Broward County, Florida at http://sheriff.org/about_bso/dodcc/info/index.cfm.

Information about County Arrest Online

Many times, these local websites offer county arrest information from arrests made in the past 24 to 48 hours, as well as inmate information for incarcerated individuals. Most of these law enforcement agencies will provide arrest information such as the name of the individual, offense he or she is charged with, and current disposition of the case. If an upcoming court date or time is set, this may also be available, as well as bond information for cases which have been granted bail already by a judge.

One of the most popular reasons for using the county arrest site is to fund commissary accounts for a current inmate, or even learn about visitation policies. If you are an attorney representing an inmate, you may visit him or her at any time, but family members and other general visitors must visit during a prescribed time. This time may be specific to the inmate you are interested in visiting, as perhaps the local jail provides visitation time slots, or it may be the same day and time for every inmate.

Commissary accounts are used by inmates to purchase non-necessities such as snacks, hairbrushes and other items from the jail. Many loved ones often provide regular funding to these accounts so inmates can enjoy the use of preferred personal care items without the jail and local government paying for them, which is generally preferred by taxpayers.

Once a bond amount has been set, you may also use these sites to provide payment and learn how to retrieve your loved one upon release. Most parties choose to pay this bond via wired funds, cashier’s check or by using a local bail bondsman.

Processing a County Arrest

Regardless of where the arrest actually takes place, most localities will put an arrestee through the same general processing. Upon taking someone into custody and transporting them to the local jail, the first thing that happens is the jail takes their personal property such as identification, wallet, keys, phone and jewelry.

Next, a general screening of the arrestee’s health will take place to determine if medications or substances such as insulin are needed for a diabetic, for example. Officials then take and record fingerprints to be entered into a national database, and mug shots are taken. Officers will also conduct a check for outstanding arrest warrants to determine if additional charges should be entered against the individual prior to appearing in court.

Records of County Arrest

In order to request a copy of your county arrest, you may approach the local sheriff’s office, or request your complete arrest and criminal records from the FBI. This is suggested in order to ensure accuracy of your records, as these identification records are compiled from state and local law enforcement agencies from across the country. In order to learn how to order a copy of your FBI Identification Records, visit the website http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cjisd/fprequest.htm.

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