There are a lot of reasons you might wonder if police reports expire. It could be that one was filed about an incident you were involved in. Maybe you filed one on someone else. Or maybe you’re looking to go into a civil service career field yourself and just want to know more about it. Whatever your reason is, you’re in the right spot because we’re about to take a look at police report expiration.
So, what is the answer to the question—do police reports expire? In logical terms, yes they do expire. For technical purposes though, there isn’t an actual expiration date associated with police reports. What really happens is the statute of limitations set for the crime included in the report passes making it meaningless after a certain point.
What Is a Police Report?
A police report is nothing more than what it sounds like. Someone who is victimized or witnesses a crime reports the incident to the police department and it gets recorded in a file. That recording is a police report.
The report doesn’t represent official charges on the person, it’s simply a description of what happened. It’s a statement to the police that is put in writing. Basically, when a police report is filed, it’s the first step to be taken to move toward the filing of charges that may lead to the prosecution of the accused person from the incident.
What Information Is Included in a Police Report?
A police report filed about an incident should have as much information about what happened as is possible. This is one reason it’s important to file a police report as soon as a crime takes place as it becomes harder for witnesses to remember the facts the longer they wait to report what they saw or experienced.
Here are some of the things that should be included in any police report:
- What the incident was
- Names of who was involved
- Names of any other witnesses
- What type of crime occurred
- Your name as the complainant
- The nature of the complaint
The more detail you can get into the report the better. Even if something might seem insignificant at the time, it’s best if you record everything you can remember because it may become something largely significant later on down the line.
Police reports are very influential when it comes to the prosecution of criminal cases in court. Typically they’re taken at the time the incident occurred so they’re viewed as reliable, first-hand recounts of what actually happened. These are written recordings of what officers and other witnesses saw not long before filing the report. They’re very valuable so it’s critical that officers filing them are diligent in making reports in a timely and detailed manner.
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What Happens After a Police Report Is Made?
Once the report has been made, the police department along with the DA for that state has to decide whether they want to charge the accused with a crime. This is where the timeline starts to matter.
The statute of limitations set for whatever the crime was is what really matters in terms of any kind of expiration. Any criminal charges have to be brought against the offending individual before the statute of limitations runs out.
A Look at the Statute of Limitations
Let’s just take a minute to look at some information regarding statutes of limitations.
- This is a time frame in which the police and prosecutor have to charge someone with a crime.
- Statutes of limitations differ for various types of crimes.
- The statute of limitations for a crime starts on the day the incident occurred.
- The statute of limitations can be tolled—stopped—for reasons like a person leaving the country, a person is a minor, or person is found to be insane.
- Statutes of limitations can be different from state to state.
- Once the statute of limitations is up, the accused person cannot be charged for that specific crime regardless of a filed police report.
How Long Are Police Reports Kept?
Police reports will be kept for different amounts of time depending on what the offense was. It also differs based on where the reports end up.
There is a national database of police reports and other records. Some of the reports from the states will be forwarded to that national database. The police reports that do end up there can be kept for up to 110 years. In some cases, there may be a request made for the file to be destroyed. If there is a valid reason for the request then the record will be expunged at that time.
Will a Police Report Stay On Someone’s Record?
If a police report was filed but there were never any charges brought, then there is nothing to go on the person’s record. As we said earlier, a police report is nothing more than just that, a retelling of an incident that occurred. It’s something to help with deciding if charges should be brought against the alleged offender. If that never happens, or hasn’t happened yet, then there will be nothing to show up on a record or rap sheet.
After the Statute of Limitations Is Up, Can You File Another Police Report and Start Over?
It’s a fairly common misconception that the statute of limitations for a crime starts at the time the police report is filed. While the report filing is the first step toward getting charges brought against someone in many cases, it’s not when the statute of limitations starts.
Statutes of limitations start when the alleged crime takes place. If you wait to file a police report thinking that the clock won’t start for when the charges have to be brought, you’ll be wrong. You can’t start the statute of limitations over just by filing another police report. The original one will remain on file anyway. It can be referenced also if it’s found there was another crime committed which has a longer statute of limitations within that same reported incident.
Will Accused Persons Know About a Filed Police Report?
There are many cases where people who have been accused of a crime have no idea that a police report was filed about them. The report does not mean they’ve been charged or that they will be arrested. That will be determined after the report is made. If there wasn’t a police officer there to witness the alleged crime, then an investigation will have to be performed to uncover evidence so it can be determined whether there should be an arrest and charges brought.
While there is no technical expiration date on a police report, they do have a useful life and therefore logically do expire. When an incident occurs for which a police report is made, there is a statute of limitations for that crime. The district attorney and the police have to decide if there are grounds to charge the accused person of a crime and then move forward to prosecute him or her for it
A police report is simply a record of an event. It can serve as a useful tool in the prosecution of an offender, but until the person is arrested and convicted there won’t be anything to see on their individual record. Police reports can be kept for more than 100 years in some cases, but are often destroyed after specified periods of time.
Do police reports show up on background checks?
No, they do not. Now that being said, if a police report led to charges being brought against someone, which then led to that person being arrested, which in turn led to a conviction, those things would show up on a background check. If the police report never resulted in anything, then no, it won’t appear in a background check.
Are police reports available to the public?
Technically, police reports are not open to the public. If they haven’t resulted in anything after the report was made (like an arrest or a conviction), then they’re not considered to be court documents that are open for the public to see. While there may be ways of obtaining police reports, they are almost never posted online.
What does a police report mean?
A police report means that there was an incident that warrants some type of investigation. It doesn’t necessarily mean that someone needs to be arrested or that a crime did occur, it means that there may be grounds for punishment should something be found to be criminal.
The report will include all of the information about what took place and who was involved. Police reports are made by the police with the information given to them by what is usually the victim of the alleged crime, but sometimes the information might be coming from a witness to the incident. The report is meant to give the police a reason to look for evidence for charging the accused with a crime.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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