How do I Make an Arrest Inquiry?

T. Briseno

Many jails in the United States have systems in place for making an arrest inquiry. Some smaller facilities generally provide information through the officer or desk staff at the facility. Automated phone prompts also can provide information, and Internet sites have become a more common way to look up inmate records. When making an arrest inquiry, searching for an individual by name is often enough. If the location of the person is known, a phone call to the local police can lead to an inmate look-up for accessing date of arrest, preliminary charges, and court dates. Using the Internet to find information typically begins with searching on the location where the arrest was made and on terms such as inmate look-up and arrest search, or by jail name.

It usually takes more than a person's name to make an arrest inquiry.
It usually takes more than a person's name to make an arrest inquiry.

Finding the phone number for a city or county jail facility often is the first step in making an arrest inquiry. In a telephone book, the numbers may be found in the opening pages among the listings for government offices. Looking under headings such as sheriff’s office, police department, and jail also can lead to a main facility phone number. Once a number is found, an operator may direct a caller to choose options for finding information on a specific individual.

Arrest records may be public information.
Arrest records may be public information.

A website search in a particular place may include “Orange County inmate information,” “Miami sheriff’s department,” or “Las Vegas arrest inquiry,” for example. Once a website is found, search boxes within the jail site can often lead to the desired information. Entering a name for the arrested individual may yield a results page with details such as a physical description and an arrest photo. Information on websites may even be found by searching on race, sex, and partial name of the individual. If a name is not known and an arrest inquiry is being made to find an offender by the date and location where the crime was committed, some sites provide options to narrow the search.

Arrest reports are typically available within 24 hours after a person's arrest.
Arrest reports are typically available within 24 hours after a person's arrest.

Some U.S. cities now have newspapers and Internet magazine sites that make arrest information available. These publications compile arrest photos and details into a single source for those interested in reading about local crimes and misdemeanors. Making an arrest inquiry by leafing through these papers or a local paper is an option for those without telephone or computer access. Arrest information in the U.S. is generally made public, and those compiling the records often make it easy to access.

The phone numbers for government offices can usually be found in the first few pages of the telephone book.
The phone numbers for government offices can usually be found in the first few pages of the telephone book.

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Discussion Comments


My uncle is an attorney, and I know in his county there is a special system set up just for lawyers. I am pretty sure there is a monthly fee associated with it, but he says it gives him a lot faster access to information than going through the public routes.

I guess the reasoning is that sometimes when a lawyers is first hired, he or she doesn't always know the exact spelling of someone's name. Sometimes the clients don't even know the exact reason for their arrest, so there is a system where he can look all that up without having to send someone to the courthouse and have a clerk get the information.

I think it is good that this information is starting to be more readily available online, since someone who is trying to get someone out of jail doesn't always know the full circumstances, and can see all the information beforehand.


@jmc88 - I am with you. I had a couple of friends that I had to bail out of jail who got arrested during a protest. Unless you know exactly who you are looking for, the data aren't really set up to browse through people and just see what people were arrested for.

The problem I ran into was that I wasn't even sure who arrested them. At least where I live, the city police and sheriff's department have different initial processing locations. The phone numbers aren't really all that easy to find either. I was never really clear about what department I was supposed to be calling to find the information.

Once I finally called the county jail, they were able to tell me whether they were there or not. He also told me how much the bail amount was and what I needed to do to get them out.


@cardsfan27 - I have never personally made an arrest inquiry, but from what I know about how government systems are run, I think it might be difficult to find what you are looking for.

I would do a lot of reading into the subscription site to make sure you would be able to get what you want. First off, it would be nearly impossible to have arrest records of every person in the US. First, every county doesn't have electronic postings and I doubt the creators of the website visit each courthouse to get the records. It is probably just limited to larger districts with records that are already online.

I think in general an arrest inquiry is more of an immediate thing so that someone can figure out if a friend or family member has been arrested and where they are located. I'm almost certain those things aren't immediately archived, so it would be hard to search for them.


Is there any reason that you should ever have to pay for an arrest inquiry? I am writing a report, and would like to get some more information about people who commit certain crimes. In general, I am wondering about the general bail amounts and fines associated with the arrest process. I found one website that says it has a feature where you can look up arrest records from all 50 states, but you have to pay a monthly subscription fee. It seems like since arrest records are public, that there shouldn't be any charge, right?

Has anyone ever used a service like this? Besides this, are there any other outlets to easily access the information without paying anything? The other thought I had was that there might be these types of records at the courthouse. If that is the case, what sort of procedures do you need to go through to get access to the information? Is it dated back to a certain point, or would you be able to find any arrest records from the past several years?

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