Florida Court Records
Florida Arrest Records
Florida arrest records are official documents generated after an arrest occurs in Florida. These records carry pertinent information about persons apprehended by the police or who had their rights to freedom temporarily limited on suspicion of a criminal offense.
Arrest records provide critical insights into the workings of the police system in Florida, including how the law is enforced and how public order/safety is maintained. Thus, they may be obtained by different entities. For instance, members of the public may obtain arrest records to look into someone's criminal past or learn about arrest incidents in their communities. Arrest information that the public may find includes the names of persons arrested, the arrest dates and locations, and alleged offenses. On the other hand, state attorney's offices review arrest reports to determine whether to prosecute within Florida's justice system, while peace officers use the records to track offender activity.
Statistics collated annually by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reveal the State of Florida to have had a total of 543,138 arrests in 2021, a 6.8% change from the previous year (508,490 arrests).
In 2021, 513,938 adults and 22,391 juveniles were arrested at crime scenes and following police investigations. Index (Part 1) crimes like murder, aggravated assault, and larceny constituted fewer arrest incidents—90,199 arrests (33,067 violent and 57,132 property crime arrests), or approximately 17% of the 2021 total. Meanwhile, Part 2 crimes like simple assault and DUI made up the majority of arrests—452,939 arrests or 83% of the arrest total that year. Offenses identified as causing the more frequent arrests in 2021 included simple assault, drug violations, larceny, and Driving Under the Influence.
Are Arrest Records Public in Florida?
Yes, arrest records are public in Florida under the state's Sunshine Law (also called the Florida Public Records Law). Indexed in Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes, the Sunshine Law affords general access to public records, including arrest records, maintained by government departments. For that reason, anyone can request and obtain an arrest record in Florida.
However, statutory exemptions may apply to active criminal investigative and intelligence information (Section 119.071(2)(c)1), juvenile arrest records, confessions, certain victim data, sealed or expunged records, and other records/information restricted by law, court order, or court rule.
More information about arrest record exemptions can be found in the Florida Office of the Attorney General's Sunshine Manual, published yearly. Interested persons may also review FS 119 for public records exemptions.
What is Included in Florida Arrest Records?
The components of a Florida arrest record are thus:
- Suspect's complete name
- Alias or nickname
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- Age at the time of arrest
- Distinguishing features, such as the suspect's race, ethnicity, sex, height, weight, build, complexion, eye color, hair color, and scars/marks/tattoos
- Arresting agency
- Arrest location, date and time
- Arrest type
- Court information, such as the court case number and arraignment date and time
- Bail/bond amount, if any
- Arrest status, i.e., whether the suspect was released (including the release time and date), is still in jail (including the cell location), or is on hold for another agency
- Booking information (booking number, date, and time)
- Special remarks
Note: This is not an exhaustive list. Also, one or more of the previous elements may not be included in a public arrest record in Florida, as exact contents may vary by agency.
Find Public Arrest Records in Florida
Finding public arrest records in Florida is usually a straightforward process. Since the records are predominantly maintained by law enforcement agencies and considered public under the state's Sunshine Law, an individual can request them from a local sheriff's office or police department. However, the request must be made to the police agency responsible for an arrest. (Note that local police agencies do not maintain records of arrests outside of their jurisdictions.)
Generally, local law enforcement divisions provide in-person and online options for obtaining arrest information. However, inquirers may submit a public records request for the records under Florida Statute 119. Agencies utilize different methods for such requests. Therefore, it is best to obtain request protocols from the source.
Another option for public arrest records in Florida is the Department of Law Enforcement's website. The FDLE maintains statewide Criminal History Record Check Systems for retrieving public arrest and criminal information. Each search costs $24 plus a $1 processing fee, payable by debit or credit card. Alternatively, individuals can submit a public records request to the FDLE for public arrest records. Charges may apply. Details about the costs and other submission guidelines are available in the FDLE's Public Records Request manual.
It is important to note that certain information cannot be disclosed to a public records requester in Florida, given that some records are exempt from disclosure under the law. Where access is required to a non-public arrest record, the law typically outlines who the record may be releasable to or how release may occur—often by court order.
Sometimes, it may be necessary to subpoena records from an agency. However, there must be an active court case for a court to issue a subpoena (a formal order to produce documents or testify in court) to a private party. The exact process for serving a subpoena should be obtained from the respective agency (the intended recipient), or one may consult their legal representative.
How to Lookup Arrest Records Online in Florida
Members of the public may utilize government and independent resources to look up Florida arrest records online. If searching government repositories, inquirers may access a sheriff's office online portal to find local arrest records.
A sheriff's online portal may be referred to as an Arrest Search or Arrest Inquiry system, and it may be accessible with a person's name, arrest date, booking number, or other parameters. For example, individuals researching arrests in Hillsborough County can search the local sheriff's Arrest Inquiry database with a last name or other available criteria. Some sheriff's offices present arrest information in a scrollable list format on their site.
If no official arrest records portal is available, the requester may contact the local law enforcement authority to request arrest information, or check if someone is in jail following an arrest. Case in point: persons who want to know if someone is currently in jail in Martin County may contact the local jail at (772) 220-7220.
On the other hand, many third-party aggregator websites are accessible online to individuals looking up Florida arrest records with a specific subject in mind. Usually, the search parameters required to use a third-party website are a person's last and first name and the particular state or city the search should cover (some websites provide a nationwide check). However, users may be subject to fees.
How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record in Florida?
Permanently. Florida's legislation specifies no timeline for the automatic deletion or removal of an arrest incident from records maintained by criminal justice agencies.
Records of arrests in Florida are maintained in line with the state's public records provisions and agency record retention schedules. Per the Florida Department of State's General Records Schedule GS-2 for Criminal Justice Agencies and District Medical Examiners, Item #32, the standard rule for maintaining arrest records in Florida is "until obsolete, superseded, or administrative value is lost."
However, an arrest record may be sealed or expunged in Florida to limit general access to it.
Expunge an Arrest Record in Florida
A Florida arrest record does not indicate a person was convicted or even charged for an alleged offense. However, society often attaches a stigma to the record—to the extent that a record holder may be regarded as an unfavorable candidate on a job or housing application or be otherwise hindered from opportunities. For this reason, former arrestees may seek to expunge their record.
Florida has different sealing and expungement procedures, depending on the circumstances that led to an arrest or its outcome.
An individual (adult or juvenile) whose arrest occurred erroneously or illegally can request an administrative expungement from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, as detailed in Fla. Stat. § 943.0581 and Fla. Admin. Code, R. 11C-7.008.
Sealing or Expungement by Court Order
A person whose arrest record does not qualify for administrative expungement may seek sealing or expungement through a court order. First, they must request and obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the FDLE to determine if they qualify under Florida's laws (Fla. Stat. §§ 943.059 and 943.0585). Below are the steps to follow:
- Go to the FDLE's website to fill out and download the application. Petitioners can also email the FDLE's Expunge Section to receive the application packet by mail or email. The application must be signed under oath in a notary's presence. An authorized law enforcement personnel or criminal justice agency must also fingerprint the applicant.
- (Note: This part applies to expungement applicants only.) Submit the FDLE application by mail or in-person to the State Attorney or State Prosecutor's Office in the county where the arrest occurred. The State Attorney's Office will complete Section B of the application, but this review may take a few weeks.
- Obtain a certified copy of the case's final disposition from the relevant clerk's office. If applicable, a certified copy of probation termination and a copy of one's pretrial completion certificate or a letter of successful completion must also be obtained. Parties who sent their application to a State Attorney's Office must have received the document before proceeding to the next step.
- Submit the FDLE application and supporting documents, plus a $75 fee payable by money order, personal check, or cashier's check, to the FDLE's Expunge Section at:
Florida Department of Law Enforcement
Post Office Box 1489
Tallahassee, Florida 32302-1489
Attention: Expunge Section
According to the FDLE, ascertaining an applicant's eligibility usually takes 12 weeks from the receipt date. Generally, a person must not have been convicted of or have pleaded guilty to a criminal charge. Also, the party must have not received an expungement or sealing in Florida.
If the FDLE determines a person eligible, the agency will send them a Certificate of Eligibility. The party can then file a Petition to Expunge or Seal and other required documentation, such as the certificate, in the court having jurisdiction over the matter. This should be the court in the county where the arrest incident occurred. Necessary forms, filing fees, and other submission procedures can be obtained from the court clerk's office. The petitioner must also submit copies of the documents to the relevant State Attorney's Office, and they may need to appear before a judge to determine whether an order for sealing or expungement should be granted.
The Department of Law Enforcement explains other sealing/expungement processes on its website. (See also FAQs.) The agency's Expunge Section also accepts questions about the state's sealing/expungement process via email at SEinfo@fdle.state.fl.us or by phone at (850) 410-7870. Individuals may also seek legal advice according to their unique circumstances.
Both sealing and expungement procedures remove a record from public view. Sealing limits a record's accessibility, and only authorized parties mentioned in Fla. Stat. § 943.059(4)(a) may access the sealed record. Meanwhile, an expungement (otherwise called an "expunction") physically destroys records held by the courts and most law enforcement departments. However, the FDLE will retain a copy of the file, only to be released by court order—even to agencies who, ordinarily, may obtain sealed information under FS 943.
How Do I Find Recent Arrests in Florida?
Most local sheriff's offices in Florida publish information about recent arrests on their websites. Therefore, individuals curious about recent arrests within a particular region may check its sheriff's official website.
A sheriff's department may provide a searchable online portal (i.e., the Arrest Search/Inquiry database discussed previously) where a user can specify a date or date range within which the system should search.
Conversely, the arrest data may be presented in list format (as seen with the Monroe County Sheriff, Seminole County Sheriff, and Lean County Sheriff's offices). The listing may be called "Current or Recent Arrests," "Recent Bookings," "Daily Booking Report," or "Bookings." However, researchers may only obtain arrest details for a limited period, often 7 to 30 days.
Inquirers can also contact or visit sheriff's departments to obtain arrest data that may not be available online, or they may search the dedicated web page Florida Department of Law Enforcement's website, as explained.
Are Florida Arrest Records Free?
Yes, in many instances. No fee is typically assessed to inspect a Florida arrest record through local law enforcement agencies. Also, accessing arrest records databases maintained by local police agencies or requesting a personal review of arrest/criminal records from the FDLE (constrained to subjects of records or their designated attorneys) bears no charge.
However, there is a potential charge to duplicate an arrest record or obtain a certified copy from a government agency. This cost varies by record custodian, and agencies apply different waiver policies for indigent requesters. Furthermore, those accessing the FDLE's Criminal History Information website or most third-party databases to obtain public arrest records must pay the associated fees.