In the majority of cases, police reports are a matter of public record. This means that any interested in party should be able to obtain a copy of a police report; however, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, juvenile records may sometimes be sealed, or the records might be sealed to protect the privacy of the victim. These exceptions vary by state and are sometimes decided by judges on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, the procedures for obtaining a police report may vary by state as well, although most states use the same types of procedures.
Getting a Copy of a Police Report as the Victim
If you were the victim of a crime, you should be able to obtain a copy of the police report directly from the department where you filed it. The police should give you a copy immediately upon filing the report. If you need an additional copy or you lose the initial copy, you should be able to obtain another one by contacting the agency or department to which you reported the crime and/or that investigated the crime. You may need to go and make this request in person, and you may need a copy of your identification.
Getting a Copy of a Police Report as the Defendant
If you were accused of a crime and your case is pending (has not been decided yet and you have not been found innocent or guilty), then you are entitled to a copy of the police report. You can obtain a copy of the police report by requesting one from the District Attorney's office who is handling the case. You or your attorney can make this request, and generally the District Attorney has a maximum time line for compliance; in other words, they must give you a copy within a set number of days.
If the outcome of the case has already been decided- the case was dismissed or you were found guilty or innocent- then you can request a copy of the police report from the court. The court may charge you a copy fee for this service.
Getting Copy of a Police Report as a Third Party
Generally, during a pending investigation, copies of the police report are only released to authorised parties. In these states, third parties who were not involved in the crime can only obtain a copy of a police report once the matter is closed---once the case has been brought to court and a final decision on the outcome was reached.
You can obtain a copy of a police report after a case is over by going to the relevant court and requesting a copy. You should know the case number of the relevant case that you want to get the police report from because the court clerk will look up the file by case number.
In most states, you can find out the case number by using online criminal indexes or contacting the clerks office. There may be a charge for obtaining the case number directly from the clerks office. The court may also charge a copying fee when you request the police report.
In other states, parties can obtain copies of police reports by request from the police department, even when a case is pending. If you are unsure whether your state makes police reports available before or after a trial, contact your local police department or court clerks office to find out.