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How can I get a copy of a police report?

Los Angeles, CA |
Filed under: Criminal defense

I was arrested last year for suspicion of vandalism. I was never charged with anything because the whole act was a scam. Ever since I've been trying to get a copy of the police report, because I consider suing the person who accused me and/or the police because of the way the arrest happened. I can't afford a lawyer and it seems impossible to get a copy of this report, even though this case was rejected. The police just keeps saying that I'm not entitled to it because I was the suspect. The arrest occurred in West Hollywood (sheriff's station). What can I do? How can I force them?

In regards to Mr. Kaman's answer: Why can a lawyer get a police report and I can't? Specially since I'm not being charged with anything.

Attorney Answers 2


All jurisdictions are different, however, try to make a Public Records Request under the Freedom of Information Act.

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If you are truly serious about suing someone, you need to hire a lawyer now instead of trying to do this on your own. To sue a government agency like a police department, you must first file a claim with the city, county or state, depending on the agency involved.

These claims usually have to be filed within six months of the event. If you don't file a claim in time, you cannot ever sue the government agency.

Frankly, unless the cops beat you up, a lawsuit probably isn't worth the time, money and effort. Some attorneys will take police misconduct cases on a contingency basis, where they get a percentage of your award in the lawsuit... but they aren't going to be interested unless there's a good chance of a big payday at the end of the case.

It may be best to let this go. As the philosopher Voltaire said more than 200 years ago, "I was only ruined but twice; once when I lost a lawsuit, and once when I won one." His point -- that suing someone is as stressful as getting sued yourself -- is even more true today.

Although I'm not Mr. Kaman, I know he won't mind if I answer your followup question:

Police reports are not public records in California. You are not entitled to a copy of the police report of an ongoing investigation, unless you are charged with a crime; then the report would be provided to your attorney. As Mr. Kaman notes, it is a crime for an attorney to provide a defendant with the address or telephone number of a person identified in police reports as a witness or victim.

You might consider applying for a finding of factual innocence, by sending a request to the arresting agency. That would result in destruction of all of the arrest records. Of course, if you're making lots of noise about suing the sheriff's department, they're less likely to grant your request, so you would have to file an application in the Superior Court after the sheriff denies your request. See California Penal Code 851.8.

By the way, I agree with Mr. Kaman that Douglas Jay Rudman had no business answering your question. Unfortunately, Avvo has a points system that allows lawyer to raise their ability by answering questions... even if the answers are uninformed and incorrect.

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