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Are Police Records Public Information?

Police records are files that contain an individual’s past engagements with the law, including arrests and criminal convictions. These records are maintained in the records division of your local police department and portions of them are public information, meaning those portions are typically accessible by the general public.  

Access to police records can be restricted if a juvenile is involved or if the incident recorded is actively under investigation. 

Police records include things like arrest information, warrants, mug shots, traffic citations, body-camera footage, 911 call recordings and transcripts, and incident (or police) reports.

Is a Police Record the Same as a Police Report?

A police record is different than a police report; however, a police report can be part of an individual’s police record, especially if that report leads to an arrest or a conviction in a crime. For example, a police report written up following a car accident can become part of an individual’s police record if that individual was charged with a DUI. 

Police reports can be anything from a single line entry about a minor event to a detailed investigative report regarding an accident scene. Police reports give law enforcement officers a reference point to begin their investigation and provide crime victims a legal document to use as evidence in an insurance claim or for court hearings.

To create this document, law enforcement officers rely on their own observations and on the statements of victims and eyewitnesses at the scene.

Is a Police Report Public Information?

A police report in Houston will include a public information section that contains the complainant’s name, the responding officer’s name, a summary of the crime, the address, date, time, and location of the incident, and the incident number.

If you need your police report to file an accident claim, this is generally all the information you will need to satisfy your insurance company.  

What Is Not Public Information?

Not all information contained in a police report can be accessed at all times. If an incident is being investigated, the police may withhold the police report to protect innocent people if evidence shows they were not involved in a crime. 

A police department may also block out the names of undercover officers involved in an investigation, or the names of witnesses who may face harm if their identity is known. A person’s social security number and any other types of information regarding personal identity are also examples of elements in a police report that might be blocked from the public view.

How Do I Obtain a Police Record or Police Report?

To obtain access to a police record in Houston, visit the Houston Police Department public information request page. From there, scroll down to the type of document you are requesting, click on the heading, and follow the instructions on how to acquire the document. 

If you were involved in a car accident, you can obtain a copy of the police report online, in person, or by mail. It can take seven to 10 days before a copy of your police report is made available for purchase. In order to obtain your police report, you must know the date and location of the incident, and the names of the other people involved in the incident. 

Remember that the Records Division can only release the public information part of any incident report.