3 Ways to Find Out If Someone is Arrested - wikiHow (2023)

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co-written byClinton M. Sandvick, JD, PhD

Last updated: March 9, 2021references

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Finding out if a friend or relative is in prison, or if someone recently arrested is still in prison, can seem daunting, but it can usually be accomplished with a little time and patience. To find out if someone is in prison, there are a number of resources you can use. You'll need to gather some information about the person and do a search, either online or by phone, but you'll probably find the person you're looking for last.


Method 1 of 3:

Narrow your search

  1. 1

    Gather information about the person you are looking for.The more information you have, the easier it will be to know if that person is in prison. At the very least, try to have the person's full name handy. Other identifying characteristics such as date of birth, age, gender, race, and hair color of that person can also be useful when conducting a search, especially if that person shares a common name.[1]

    • If you don't have someone's full name, you may be able to locate that person if you have at least a nickname and the date of arrest. However, you will not be able to use online resources with this information alone, and it will likely be more difficult for you to find the information you need.
  2. 2

    Find out if the person is likely to be in jail or jail.People who are normally in prison have been arrested but not yet prosecuted, are awaiting trial but have not been released on bail or are serving less than a year in prison.

    • If someone is serving a sentence longer than a year, they are usually placed in prison.
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  3. 3

    Find out in which prison this person is most likely to be held.If you know the status of the person you believe is in prison, it may be easier to find out which prison they are being held in. If the person has just been arrested, chances are they will be arrested. in the county jail where he was arrested.

    • If someone is awaiting trial or indictment, they will most likely be locked up in the jail in their home county or the county where that person was arrested.
    • However, sometimes when an inmate is serving his sentence, the prison transfers the inmate due to space constraints.
  4. Notice

  1. 1

    Use an online search engine to find a county website.[2]If you know where the person in question was arrested, first check that county's website. If you don't know where the person was arrested, but you know where the person lives, search the website for that county.

  2. 2

    Check the county sheriff's, police department, or county municipal court websites.Some county jail websites have searchable databases of people incarcerated there. Often all you need is a person's name to search the database.

    • Not all counties have an online resource that can be used to locate inmates, but today there are many and you can find the link to this resource on a county law enforcement page.
    • Not all online databases are updated frequently, and information can easily become out of date.
    • If you find the person you are looking for online, you should make sure the person is still there by calling the jail directly.
  3. 3

    Check neighboring countries' websites.If there is a chance that the county was wrong and the person is being held elsewhere, they are likely to be in a neighboring county. Try using an online resource that lists all of the inmate locators for your state.

    • Please note, however, that these resources can only list counties that have online inmate tracking and cannot list neighboring counties that are only reachable by phone.
  4. 4

    Use the Victim Information and Notification Every Day (VINE) program.[3]VINE is a service that allows crime victims to obtain information about the detention status of criminals. Most states contract with VINE to provide the service. However, in some states, VINE is only available in certain counties or not at all.

    • To use VINE, simply visit the website here and click on the state where the wanted offender is located. You can search for the offender by name or by ID number.
    • Additionally, you can opt-in to have VINE contact you (either via email, text, or phone call) if the offender's detention status changes.
    • You can also download the VINE app to keep up to date.
  5. 5

    Use the Federal Bureau of Prisonswebsite.If you're trying to locate someone you think is in a federal prison rather than a county jail, the Federal Bureau of Prisons website is a good place to start. This is a government-run website with a search engine to help you find the person you're looking for.

    • In order to use this website, you must know at least the first and last name of the person. Both names must be spelled correctly.[4]
    • Please note that the Federal Bureau of Prisons website only applies to individuals in federal custody as opposed to state crimes. In most cases, common crimes are punishable under state law, while crimes committed in multiple states or in violation of federal law are punishable under federal law. For example, a DUI would likely be a criminal offense under state law, while violations of Securities and Exchange Commission regulations would be a criminal offense under federal law.
    • Also note that this government website only contains records of inmates held from 1982 to the present.
  6. 6

    Use an inmate locator website.If you did not find the person you are looking for through the county or federal website, you can try using a national inmate locator website. On your online search engine of choice, use the search bar and type "find an inmate" or a variation of that phrase.

    • A few websites will be displayed. Avoid the ones that look like a scam. For example, if they are full of ads or ask you to sign up for something, don't use this inmate locator.
    • Once you find a website, you can select the state you are interested in and you may be directed to that state's website or inmate location system.[5]
  7. Notice


Method 3 of 3:

offline search

  1. 1

    Call the county jail or clerk.[6]If you do not have Internet access, cannot locate an online prisoner locator for the county suspected of arresting you, or do not have the information needed to use the online prisoner locator, call a county law enforcement agency. with someone there. You can find these numbers on the county jail's website or in your local phone book.

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    • If you're not sure which county the person you're looking for was arrested in, you may have to call several different offices.
    • There may be a specific phone number or extension you can use for inquiries about detainees, but even if you don't know that number and can't reach it, simply calling non-emergency police can be helpful.
    • The receptionist or operator should be able to put you in touch with who you need to speak to. However, remember that the person you are speaking to cannot tell you the names of the people being held in that prison unless they have sufficient information. Please also understand that it may take a few days for people who have just been arrested to be added to the system.
  2. 2

    Ask to speak to the arresting officer.If you still cannot locate the person you are looking for, but are certain that the person in question was arrested by an officer in that county, politely ask to speak to the arresting officer. He or she can tell you where the person in question was transported to.

  3. 3

    Press forward until you've gone through all the possibilities.After contacting one of the counties where the person in question may be incarcerated and after speaking to someone who can refer you elsewhere, you may have to wait a few days and then try again. The person's information may be poorly archived or not yet entered the system.

    • Be aware that if the person you are looking for is not in prison in any of the counties where you would expect them to be, chances are the person is not actually in prison.
    • Also, the person you are looking for might have given law enforcement officials a false name. This could lead to a very difficult search process.
  4. Notice


When using this service, certain information may be passed on to YouTube.


  • If you are looking for a relative, you can state this when you call the district office. Employees are more likely to share information with affected family members.


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3 Ways to Find Out If Someone is Arrested - wikiHow (15)


About this article

3 Ways to Find Out If Someone is Arrested - wikiHow (30)

Co-written by:

Juris Doctor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This article was written in collaboration withClinton M. Sandvick, JD, PhD. Clinton M. Sandvick practiced as a civil trial attorney in California for over 7 years. He received his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his 2013 J.D. in American History from the University of Oregon. This article has been viewed 570,752 times.

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Updated:March 9, 2021



Article SummaryX

To find out if someone is in prison, try to gather as much information about the person as possible, e.g. B. their full name, date of birth, gender and hair color. After gathering this information, search online for the website of the county where you were arrested or the county where the person lives. After finding the site, use the search tool to enter the person's details so you can search for them. If you can't find anything, check neighboring counties' websites to see if the person in question is being held in a prison there. Alternatively, if the county does not offer online resources, look for an inmate locator website that contains a database of all inmates across the country. You can also try calling the County Clerk's Records Office if you're having no luck online.Read on for tips from our legal co-author on how to find out if someone is in prison!

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