• If you are interested in obtaining a police report, there are a number of legal considerations that you need to understand. Police reports in filed cases are handled differently than those in cases that are not submitted for prosecution. Your ability to access a police report depends on your relationship to a particular case as well as whether a case is referred for prosecution.

    Police Report---Case Not Referred

    In most jurisdictions across the United States, a police report is not a public record until it is referred to the prosecuting attorney. The only individuals able to obtain access to such a police report before a referral are the victims of a crime or the individual or individuals who filed the police report in the first instance.

    Police Report--Case Referred

    A police report that is referred for prosecution becomes available to the general public when a case is filed against a defendant or defendants. Typically the police report actually is made a part of the initial court filing. In such a situation, a member of the public actually can obtain the police report by requesting the indictment or complaint (and attachments) filed by the prosecuting attorney.

    Request at Law Enforcement Center

    In all jurisdictions you are able to make a request for a police report at the appropriate law-enforcement headquarters where the report was made in the first instance. Again, the restrictions on access to such a report come into play when making such a request. Typically a law-enforcement center will provide you with a standard form to complete to obtain a police report. Normally there is a period of two to three days before the request is processed and the report made available.

    Request Via Internet

    Many police and sheriff's departments now permit people with a legal interest in a case and members of the general public to have access to a police report over the Internet. These agencies provide an online portal through which you can submit a request for a police report. The report will be sent to you in electronic form, if possible. Otherwise, a hard copy of the report will be sent to you after your request is approved.


    New York City Police Department: Criminal Records Section

    Los Angeles Police Department: Police Reports

    "The New Police Report Manual;" Devallis Rutledge; 2000

    More Information:

    Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police: Police Reports

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