Nothing is scarier than a missing person. You’re frantic to find out what happened. Then it hits you: Maybe your loved one got arrested. Many jails have websites that allow you to look up inmates currently in custody. Some even list those who were booked and recently released. But an inmate search can tell you much more than whether or not a person has been arrested. It’s a useful tool that can answer many questions.
Is he or she in jail?
Probably, the most frequent reason people use an inmate search feature online is to determine whether a person is in jail or has recently been booked into a jail and then released. The search can be used to find a friend or family member in the system, but someone who has reason to fear an inmate can also use it. For example, the victim of a crime might check the inmate search feature in a jail to be sure the person charged has not been released, so precautions can be taken.
The search is usually conducted with the person’s legal name, and if it is a common name, you can check the birthdates or years to find your person.
Most inmate search results will show the inmate’s legal name, birthdate, race, age, address and physical description including height as well as hair and eye color.
What are the charges?
Almost all inmate searches will produce this information. If you’re planning to help the inmate, you’ll want to know what the charges are so you can start contacting defense attorneys who specialize in those charges. If it is someone who has called asking you to post bail so they can be released, you should always check the charges on the search page instead of just taking the inmate’s word. Many who have been arrested have lied about the severity of the charge so that they can get bailed out. You should make sure you are comfortable bonding out someone accused of whatever crime this person is accused of committing.
The inmate search can verify what the inmate is telling you with regard to what he or she has actually been charged with. This can be important information in deciding whether to post bond or which attorney to hire.
Bails work differently in different states and counties. You should be able to see how much the bond is. The search will let you know if the inmate can be bailed out. It will also tell you if the bond is secured or unsecured, meaning do you have to put up property equal to the total bond or can you just pay a percentage in cash and sign for the rest in case the inmate doesn’t return to court.
Always call the jail before calling a bail bond agent. If your inmate has a hold from another jurisdiction, even if you pay the bond for the new charges, the person will not be released and you will have wasted money. Just ask the jail whether there are any “holds” on the inmate from other jurisdictions.
Housing and Booking Number
Almost all jails require that you include the inmate’s booking number on mail and money orders that you send to the jail. Some ask you to also provide the housing location. Jails often assign specific visitation days or times to each housing unit, so before you can schedule a visit you need to know where your inmate has been assigned to stay.
The search page gives you information about housing and booking numbers which is valuable for future things like writing to your loved one or putting money on the books.
While you won’t be able to see all of the future court dates because they have not been set yet, the search will show you what the next upcoming court date will be and where it will be. This information is important if you want to be there to show support as well as to victims and other interested parties who want to keep up with the case and know when to sit in court to witness the proceedings.
It is usually easier to check the inmate search page for court dates and times than to wait on hold for a clerk at the courthouse to get the same information.
Some but not all jails will also post the inmate’s past criminal history within that county on the site. You can click the history tab and view whether this person has ever been arrested or convicted of a crime in that county, and if so, for what, which can also help you decide whether to post bond, etc.
Knowing the history of someone charged with a crime provides insight when it comes to making decisions.
Many jails include a mugshot photo with the information. This can be helpful when two inmates have similar or the same names. You can look at the mugshot to determine if it is in fact the person you are searching for.
Mugshots provide further evidence that you are viewing the correct person.
Final thoughts: An inmate search page provides so much more than just finding out if a person was arrested. That is a starting point and then you can dig deeper to find valuable information about the inmate or the case. This is important whether you are a loved one of the inmate, a victim, or just an interested party.
Video: How to do an inmate search