How to Lookup a Police Report
Whether you’ve been involved in an accident or you have had a run-in with the law, knowing how to lookup a police report is an important skill. Police reports are public documents and the information they contain could have an impact on a wide range of things, including finding a job, applying for a loan, or pursuing an insurance claim. We are going to give a basic rundown of what a police report is, why it’s important, and how to lookup a police report.
Police Report vs. Police Record
First, let’s clarify something that is bound to cause some confusion: the difference between a police report and a police record. While these two items have similar names, they are in fact very different. A police report is a document filed by a police officer that essentially offers a summary of an arrest, incident, or accident. A police record, on the other hand, is usually the same as a criminal record and it includes a list and summary of an individual’s history of interactions with law enforcement, including arrests and convictions.
Police Reports and Accident Reports
Another point that deserves clarification is the difference between a police report and an accident report. In fact, there’s not really a difference between these two items. An accident report is simply a type of police report that details the circumstances of a traffic accident. A police report, meanwhile, can include accident reports, but they cover a much broader range of incidents that may involve the police, including crimes. Note that some police departments call police reports ‘incident reports.’ Remember that some accident reports may also be criminal reports, such as if the accident may have been caused by drunk driving.
How to File a Police Report
If you are involved in an accident, you may need to call the police and file a police report. In most states, if an accident results in death or injury or property damage exceeds a certain threshold then by law you are required to call the police. That threshold can vary depending on whether or not the motorists involved in the accident are insured. In Illinois, for example, the property damage threshold at which police must be called to an accident is usually $1,500. However, if any driver involved in the crash is uninsured then that threshold is just $500.
Even if you think your accident doesn’t meet the minimum threshold, it is usually still a good idea to file a police report. That’s because a police report is an official account of the accident and it can have a huge impact on your insurance claim. Remember that even if you call the police and the police don’t come to the accident scene (which sometimes happens for minor accidents) you can still visit the police department later and file a report there. Some police departments, such as the Los Angeles Police Department, even allow you to file police reports online so long as it relates to a non-emergency incident.
How to Lookup a Police Report
To lookup a police report, the first thing you will need to determine is which police department holds your report. Usually it will be the local law enforcement agency responsible for whichever county your incident took place in. Federal law enforcement, such as the FBI, are rarely the first agency to be called to a crime so it’s rare that you will need to obtain a federal police report (although you can request a federal background check). Knowing how to lookup a police report is a key factor in determining what the charges are and making sure everything that was documented is accurate. If you are involved with an incident that requires you to file a police report then it’s best practice to have a copy of that report on hand.
How to Request a Police Report Online
Once you have determined which police department has your police report, you should visit their website. Many police departments now allow you to request your police report online, although some may require you to print off a police report request form and mail it to them with a self-addressed stamped envelope. San Antonio, for example, allows you to submit a request for a police report online, in person, or through the mail.
Police Department Request Form
If you cannot submit a police report request online or through the mail, then you will have to visit the police department in person and file a request there. Call beforehand since some departments only allow in-person requests on certain days. You can find your local police department here. Then you can find out about filling out a Police Department Request Form in person and how to get the information you need. Typically these police department request forms can be fulfilled that day.
A request will typically require you to provide your personal and contact information as well as details about the incident, including the type of incident, date, and who else was involved. Be aware that if the report pertains to an ongoing investigation then your request could be denied. If you are unclear about why your request was denied you should talk to an attorney.
Police Reports via Public Record Websites
An alternative option is to use an online public records database, such as SearchQuarry.com. While the police reports on these databases will not be official (and therefore cannot be used for insurance, employment, or most other official purposes), they are a useful way of satisfying your curiosity about what a police report says about you.
Why Police Reports Matter
Police reports are public records and in some states they may be viewable by just about anybody. Usually there are restrictions on how those records can be used, particularly by employers, landlords, and financial institutions. As already mentioned, police reports are particularly useful–and they may even be necessary–when filing a claim with your insurer. The contents of a police report are important, so you need to make sure that any police report pertaining to you is accurate and does not cast you in an unnecessarily bad light.