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What is an Arrest Report?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 16, 2024

An arrest report is a legal document which provides the details of an arrest. People also sometimes use the term “arrest report” to refer to an arrest log, a documentation of all arrests which occurred within a set time period. Such documents are usually available to the public by request, and because they can be items of news interest, many newspapers maintain a staffer who reviews arrest logs for information which might be used to generate a story or to provide more information about a story.

Arrest reports include a great deal of information. The name of the law enforcement agent or agents involved is listed, along with the agency or agencies the agent or agents work for. In addition, the arrest report provides information about the date and time of the arrest, the charges, and the scheduled court date, if one is available. It may also include notes and observations from the arresting officer.

From the perspective of law enforcement, the arrest report provides documentation about how, why, and when an arrest occurred. This information can be used in the future when prosecuting a crime, and it can also be used if there is a dispute about the situation or if someone wishes to contest charges or an arrest. For example, if someone sues for unlawful arrest, the arrest report will become a key document in the case as it can be used to determine whether or not law enforcement acted appropriately.

This document can also be the start of a paper trail for someone who is entering the justice system. The arrest report goes on the person's record, along with information taken at intake such as fingerprints, photograph, and demographic data. For repeat offenders, an arrest report may be of interest to parole officers and other people interested in the case.

Arrest reports are also used to convey information to other law enforcement agencies. For example, if an agent arrests someone on a warrant from another agency, the arrest report will be sent out so that the issuing agency knows that the subject of the warrant has been apprehended. Likewise, arrest reports can be sent by request if an agency wants the complete arrest history of someone they have arrested or detained.

In some regions, arrest reports pertaining to juveniles may be sealed in accordance with the law. The reports will also not be considered in an adult record, unless special circumstances are involved.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Farah1 — On Jun 30, 2011

@SuperJD - I understand where you are coming from. In rare instances, police officers can be put in danger for being associated with an arrest. However, being a police officer is a dangerous job in it of itself. I do not thing law enforcement agencies should stop allowing the public to have access to arrest reports.

In the cases where unlawful arrests are made, I think that the officers involved in these arrests should be held accountable. A way for this to happen is to release to the public all of the information involved in the arrest. This includes police officers.

The names of criminals are often times released to the public and spread in the media. This media attention often spurs the criminal to be prosecuted faster. When a law enforcement agent commits a wrongdoing, he or she should be treated the same way that an average citizen is.

By SuperJD — On Jun 29, 2011

I have been working as a courthouse clerk for some time now. In the courtroom I work in, I have seen a few cases that involved a police officer being a target of violence because he was involved in an arrest. For the safety of the officers, I do not think that arrest reports should be made available to the public.

There was one case in which the brother a man who believed he was falsely arrested fired shots at the officer who arrested him. He went to the police station, got a hold of the report and the officer's name, found the officer and shot at him.

Thankfully, the officer was not injured. But this just goes to show how dangerous it is for arrest records and other police records should not be made available to the public. Doing so can lead to violent outcomes.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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