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If you suspect that someone has been arrested by the police, you’ll likely what to confirm that suspicion as soon as possible. Finding out if someone is in jail can be very easy or very difficult, depending on a few different factors:

  • When do you think they were arrested? If it was within the last few minutes to hours, it may be more difficult to determine if they’ve been arrested as the paperwork and booking process may not be complete.
  • Where did they possibly get arrested? If it’s someone local to you, it’ll be easier to determine who to call and where to look, whereas if they’re far away, you’ll have to do some digging to even know where to start.
  • Have they been charged with a crime or are they with the police voluntarily? If they’re voluntarily answering questions, and aren’t an official suspect in a crime yet, it may be a little more difficult to find out simply because there may not be any official paperwork yet.

This isn’t to say that you can’t find out, it just may take a little more legwork.

So, what should you do to find out if someone got arrested? The first step is determining where they are being detained. If they’ve recently been arrested, they’re likely in a local jail, most likely the county jail. If, however, the arrest was some time ago and you’re trying to find out where they are after they’ve already been tried and convicted, you may need to check state or federal prisons.

Call the local police

Someone can be in the custody of the police without being accused of a crime. Custody is different than arrest. Being in police custody means that you aren’t free to leave or move around on your own, but an arrest doesn’t actually occur until you are detained by physical restraint, put in the back of a police car, handcuffed, or booked at the police station. You can be in police custody answering questions and not be arrested. If this is the case, there will be no record of the arrest because the person hasn’t been arrested.

However, if you call the police station and ask if the person is in custody, they can usually tell you. While there is no arrest record yet, there will usually be some kind of record that the person is there.

Call, or visit the website, of the county jail

If you’re certain the person has been arrested, you can call the local jail and ask. Alternatively, visit the website of the jail or the police or sheriff’s department. Look for a link that indicates inmate records – it may be labeled “Current Inmates”, “Inmate Information”, “Arrest Inquiries” or something along those lines. Typically, after you click that link, you’ll eventually end up on a page where you can enter the first and last name of the person you’re looking for. You may be able to enter additional information, such as a birthdate, Social Security number, or address, to narrow the search down further if they have a common name. If they’ve been arrested, this will usually turn up a result that will show you their mugshot, identifying information and, typically, the charges against them.

Call a bail bondsman

Bail bondsmen know the system very well. While they can’t tell you instantly whether someone’s been arrested, they can usually help you find out. Depending on who the person is, you may wish to bail them out, and enlisting the assistance of a bail bondsman will help move that process along a little more quickly. Bail bondsmen are also often open 24/7/365, so you can get answers even at unusual hours.

Check public notices

Under the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, there is a concept known as “Writ of Habeas Corpus.” This concept requires that the local government issue a “Letter of Physical Custody of a Body,” which states the charges and whereabouts of the arrested person.

You can also check for arrest information on local government websites under areas such as “Arrests and Bail.”

Some newspapers also still publish a police blotter-style section in which arrests are listed, as well as crimes committed.

Being in police custody or under arrest isn’t a secret. It’s public information, but it often takes some investigative work to find out. The above methods should make it a much simpler, and quick, process to find out if your loved one is in jail or not.