Every year in the US, there are more than 1.2 million violent crimes, 7.1 million property crimes, and 5.2 million car accidents.
What do all these numbers mean? For every one of these incidents, local law enforcement agencies create and file a police report.
If you’re involved in legal proceedings, you may need to submit a copy of the police report for your case. Before you can do that, however, you first need to know how to obtain a police report.
We’ll explain everything you need to know, so keep reading!
1. Find Out if Your Report Is Public Record
Before you panic, rest assured that getting a police report is probably much easier than you expect. Here’s how to get what you need for your case.
First of all, are police reports public record? The answer is: it depends.
Traffic accidents, burglaries, and other straightforward cases may quickly become available for public record. However, some records will not be available if there’s an ongoing investigation. The same is true if releasing the records could jeopardize someone’s safety.
Provided your case falls into the prior category, here’s how to obtain a police report.
2. Find the Request Form
Begin your research by finding out what’s required by the police department in the jurisdiction where the incident happened. Start by looking at the police department’s website or the city’s official site.
Most departments will have something called a “request for public records” or a “request for open records.” Once you’ve found it, download the form to fill out.
3. Submit Your Request
You’ll likely need to provide some information along with the request form. This might include:
- Name of at least one party involved
- Date, time, and location of the incident
- Incident or case number
Along with the request form, you’ll need to show a photo ID to verify your identity. You may also need to pay a nominal fee for the records or sign a disclaimer that you won’t use the report for solicitation purposes.
Follow the directions carefully about whether to submit via email, regular mail, or in person. Keep in mind that very few police departments allow access to reports online.
4. Be Patient & Reasonable
After you’ve submitted your request, it will probably take a few days for the police to process the forms and release the report to you.
In some locales, it might be easy to get a police report. In others, the records might only be available to parties directly involved (or their attorneys).
Depending on the nature of the incident, it’s possible that the report will leave out certain personal information. For example, the names of witnesses, informants, or undercover law enforcement will not be in the official report.
How to Obtain a Police Report: Now You Know
The legal process is never easy, but some aspects are less complicated than they first appear.
If you learn it’s required for your case, refer back to this article about how to obtain a police report. By following the steps outlined above, you’ll have the documents you need in no time!
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