Are Arrest Records Public Information?

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, arrest records are considered public information unless they are sealed by a judge. One of the most common reasons a record may be searched is to investigate a person seeking employment.

Because it is so easy to find information about arrests, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press points out that news organizations often seek this information to publish it in local newspapers. In fact, there is much legal precedent for the protection of media outlets that publish such information; the 2001 Supreme Court case of Bartnicki v. Vopper upheld that media outlets could publish information about individuals that held significance for the public, even if that information was unlawfully retrieved by a third party.

One potential bit of good news is that more states are considering sealing records for relatively minor criminal offenses. The spirit of such legislation is to make it easier for individuals to enter the workforce after being convicted for something such as the possession of marijuana. However, such proposed legislation has already been shot down in states such as New Mexico due to the public being concerned about its right to know of criminal activity, according to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.