How Do I Get a Police Report for My Arrest (and What Do I Do with It)?
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If you have been arrested in New York, you have the right to obtain a copy of your arrest report. Getting a copy of the police report for your arrest is crucial for understanding the charges brought against you, the evidence that might be presented against you, and the court procedures involved. In New York, there are several ways to get police reports, but the most common one is to make a direct request to the law enforcement department that made the arrest.

How We Write Up an Arrest Report

Typically, police reports provide a third party’s point of view, i.e. the police officer’s belief as to what happened despite not having witnessed it. Of course, if the incident was witnessed directly by law enforcement it’s a firsthand account. 

Although you’ll want to get a copy of the official police report for more detailed information, you were likely told what you were arrested for at the time of the arrest itself. For example, an officer might say, “You are under arrest for 3rd degree assault.”  Or, “you’re being arrested for criminal possession of a weapon.”

Obtaining a Copy of a New York Police Report

From a legal standpoint, the public has access to some police files and violation reports that the police department has created and keeps up to date. So to obtain a copy of a police report, it might be easiest to start with the police precinct for the area where the incident occurred. Aided reports (i.e., when one is injured and aid is provided by the NYPD), can only be obtained by mail. The form to request aided reports can be downloaded online or picked up at any police precinct. 

The paperwork we have to complete for an arrest is time-consuming and complicated. Finalizing these reports can take a while because officers have to make sure they are filed properly. So you may have to wait a few days for your arrest report to be available, be it in person or online.

Obtain and Fill Out Request Forms

The majority of arrests in the State of New York are handled by the New York City Police Department (NYPD), the largest municipal police force in the country. You can fill out a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request form in person at the station where the arrest was made in order to acquire a copy of the police report for an NYPD arrest. Your name, address, and proof of identity will be required, along with the case number or, if known, the time and place of the arrest.

Request a Police Report by Mail or Online

Two other options are to request the police report for your arrest via mail or online. To request a police report by mail, you must fill out and send the FOIL request form to the NYPD Records Access Division. Visit the NYC Police Department Record Request webpage to submit an online request for a police report. To search for your request by name or case number, you must first create an account, log in, and then access your account. 

Incident reports are available online or by mail. If handled by mail, you must include 2 copies of the completed request form, along with a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. Of course, if you hire an attorney, he/she can get a report on your behalf.

Why You Should Request a Report Following an Arrest

Obtaining a copy of the arrest report can be helpful if you were arrested, recently detained, and/or are presently awaiting trial. That’s because these reports will include the incident’s specifics, including its location, what occurred, who was involved, witness names, and more. All of this information can also be helpful to an attorney you may hire to defend you. However, bear in mind that you won’t be able to get a copy of a police report until the investigation has come to a conclusion.

The witnesses named in a police report may help you disprove the charges brought against you. Or there may be details included that a skilled attorney can use to negotiate a plea to a lesser offense, thereby mitigating the consequences (e.g., reducing fines and/or jail time). Also, you should know that police reports are typically a part of the prosecution’s case against you. Your lawyer can thoroughly review an arrest record to look for mistakes that indicate bias or misconduct on the part of law enforcement, clearing your name in the process.

If you have been arrested in New York, your attorney can use the report you obtain to help build a challenge to the accusations made against you.

What You Should Do Once You Receive It 

Make sure that you read your police report carefully once you receive it. Important information concerning your arrest will be included in the report, including any evidence that was gathered, witness accounts, and any comments or you made to the police. If there are any flaws or mistakes in your report, it is important to let your attorney know. You should also know that initial charges noted in the report can be downgraded through negotiations with the District Attorney’s office.

The bottom line is that getting a police report is an important step in developing a defense against criminal accusations. By carefully reviewing the report and speaking with an experienced attorney, you may ensure that your rights are protected and that you receive a fair trial.

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