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Tennessee Court Records

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Tennessee Arrest Records

Law enforcement officers in Tennessee create arrest records when they apprehend and detain individuals suspected of breaking the law. A typical arrest record shows the incident leading to an arrest, the date and time of the arrest, the arrestee's details (name, description, and date of birth), the arresting agency and officer, and the alleged offense. Other information, such as fingerprints, mugshots, and booking numbers, can also be found in these records.

A person's Tennessee arrest record will contain all their interactions with law enforcement, especially if they have had more than one run-in. The record goes on to be part of their criminal history information if a Tennessee court convicts them.

Arrest records are crucial for crime-fighting, legal, judicial, and public safety purposes. Law enforcement officers can refer to previous arrest records during investigations to unlock related cases. Prosecutors and defense attorneys can use the records to research their cases and prepare arguments. Members of the public can look up publicly available arrest records to track high-profile cases and stay informed about crime in their neighborhoods. 

Also, former arrestees typically need their arrest records to apply for expungement, as these records can negatively impact their lives. Some employers check background information regarding arrests while assessing job applicants.

According to data from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Crime Insight platform, 262,702 arrests were reported in Tennessee in 2022. Of those arrested, 14,384 were under 18, and 248,318 were above 18.

Local and state law enforcement agencies create arrest records, and individuals can obtain them through the arresting agencies. However, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) also maintains certain arrest records as part of criminal history information. Individuals can also refer to criminal case records maintained by courts to find arrest details.

Are Arrest Records Public in Tennessee?

Yes, Tennessee arrest records are considered public records, i.e., accessible by the general public, under the state's Open Records Act (Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503). This transparency is integral to the state's commitment to open governance and accountability, allowing individuals to obtain vital information for various purposes, including personal background checks. 

The Open Records Act states that public bodies serviced by public funds must allow members of the public to inspect and obtain materials and documents generated during their official and statutory affairs.

However, there are specific exemptions regarding accessibility to arrest records. These exemptions are established in Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-504 and include:

  • Juvenile Records: Records of a juvenile's arrest are generally inaccessible to protect the privacy of minors and support their rehabilitation. Per Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-153, access to juvenile records is typically limited to court officials, law enforcement agencies, and other authorized entities unless explicitly opened to the public under Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-153(b).
  • Ongoing Investigations: According to Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-504, records related to active criminal investigations are exempt from public disclosure. Law enforcement agencies may withhold records whose release would interfere with ongoing proceedings or investigations or jeopardize the safety of individuals involved.
  • Sealed Records: Arrest records sealed by court order are generally not accessible to members of the public. In some cases, records may be temporarily sealed while the court hears a motion regarding the case, after which the records may become publicly accessible.
  • Expunged Information: Courts hear and grant petitions to expunge arrest records from publicly accessible databases and systems. However, arrest records in the possession of district attorneys and law enforcement are exempt from expungement.

What is Included in Tennessee Arrest Records?

Tennessee arrest records officially mark every arrested individual's entry into the state's justice system. The records include the following:

  • Personal Identifying Information: The suspect's full name, date of birth, physical descriptors (height, weight, and eye and hair colors), fingerprints, and photograph (mugshot)
  • Arrest Details: The date and location of an arrest, the arresting law enforcement division, and the arresting officer's name and badge number
  • Charges: A detailed list of the charges filed against the individual, which may include both misdemeanor and felony charges and the related statutes or laws allegedly violated
  • Booking Information: Details regarding the booking process, including the booking number, time and date, and the location where the arrestee was detained
  • Bail/Bond Information: If applicable, information about the bail amount set or bond posted for an arrestee's release

Find Public Arrest Records in Tennessee

Individuals seeking arrest records in Tennessee must follow a series of steps to ensure success. While there are different arrest records request methods, they require specific information and may involve a fee. 

Here is a step-by-step guide:

  • Identify the type of record: The type of record an individual wants to find determines where they can submit their request. Some records are restricted by law or court order. In some cases, only specific entities can obtain certain records. 
  • Determine the appropriate agency: Members of the public can obtain arrest records from police departments, sheriff's offices, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), or the court that convicted an individual. Individuals can also view an inmate's arrest details when they check incarceration records maintained by the Department of Corrections and county sheriffs.
  • Gather the required information: Regardless of the agency maintaining a specific record, requesters are expected to provide specific details, such as the full name of the arrested individual, date of birth, date of arrest (if known), and any other relevant identifying information to assist in locating the record.
  • Choose a request method: Local government agencies are empowered by Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-503(g) to establish procedures for receiving and processing records requests. Some may offer multiple request avenues, and others may provide only one or two. It is important that requesters contact the respective agency and weigh their options. The following are typical request methods.
    • In-Person: This process involves visiting an agency's records division. It is advisable to call ahead to verify hours of operation and any specific requirements.
    • Mail: Most agencies allow requesters to mail written requests to the appropriate department. Sometimes, individuals can download forms online, fill them out, and mail them to the indicated address.
    • Online: Some agencies offer online portals for public records requests. Requesters can view all the information they want online in some cases or request copies of the records they wish to obtain. Interested individuals should check the specific agency's website for record availability and instructions.
  • Pay the fee: Most agencies charge a fee for copying and processing arrest records. Fees vary by agency and the number of pages being requested. Requesters must also pay to certify copies of original documents. It is ideal to confirm the fee beforehand and understand the accepted payment methods. For example, the Memphis Police Department charges Tennessee residents 15 cents per page for police reports and $15 for non-residents.

Obtaining Restricted or Non-Public Records

In some cases, police departments and the TBI may reject requests for non-public or restricted records. Such records may only be accessible by court order, according to Tenn. Code Ann. § 10-7-504. Individuals who believe they have a right to inspect and obtain such records (for example, those involved in an active court case) may request a subpoena.

People who intend to use subpoenas are advised to consult an attorney for guidance.

How to Lookup Arrest Records Online in Tennessee

Individuals looking to access arrest details online can use resources provided by official state and county agencies or third-party entities. However, most online databases maintained by a court, law enforcement agency, and jail facility do not provide complete arrest records. Researchers may only find basic details such as charge, arrestee detail, and date of arrest.

People who want in-depth information should contact the applicable arresting agency. Suppose the search subject was convicted of a crime. In that case, one may obtain more information using criminal background search services offered by the TBI, county criminal court clerks, and the Tennessee Department of Corrections.

The following are some online resources that display arrest information:

  • Criminal Court Online Portals: Many of Tennessee's circuit courts offer online portals where individuals can search for criminal case records, which may contain arrest details. These portals typically allow searches by name, case number, or incident number. An example is the case search portal managed by the Criminal Court Clerk of Davidson County.
  • Inmate Search Portals Provided by County Sheriffs' Offices: Many county sheriff's offices in Tennessee offer inmate search portals. These databases allow users to search for individuals serving time in county jails, providing information such as booking photos, charges, bail amount, and booking date. These portals typically display inmate arrest details, including their booking date, charge, and charge status. For example, the Davidson County Sheriff's Office's Active Inmate Search portal allows members of the public to search for inmates in the county's custody using different search parameters, such as an inmate's name and number.
  • Police Department and Sheriff Offices' Websites: Some city or town police departments and county sheriff offices in Tennessee maintain websites with sections dedicated to arrest records or press releases concerning recent arrests. While not all departments offer comprehensive online archives, these websites can be quick sources for local arrest information and other law enforcement news. For example, the Knox County Sheriff's Office operates a webpage that displays individuals arrested recently alongside details of their arrest.
  • Third-party Websites: Some third-party vendors compile public records, including arrest records, and sell them to members of the public. While these websites are not associated with any Tennessee public body or agency, they often make the search process easy for individuals, providing a central repository for finding information about people arrested in different jurisdictions. However, individuals must use these resources cautiously and verify any information obtained through official channels.

How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record in Tennessee

Tennessee arrest records remain in the state's system until people eligible for expungement file requests to remove those records with the appropriate court. However, an arrest record may be permanent public information if a court convicts the offender.

That said, expunging one's arrest records does not remove them from every system. Arrest information and documents maintained with law enforcement agencies or district attorneys are exempt from expungement but will not be available for public inspection and reproduction.

Expunge an Arrest Record in Tennessee

Expungement refers to the legal procedure authorized by a court to delete an individual's arrest records as if they never existed. Eligibility for expungement in Tennessee is limited to specific types of criminal and arrest records, and some records may be expunged without a fee. 

Individuals may qualify for expungement at no cost in Tennessee under the following circumstances:

  • A grand jury delivered a "no true bill."
  • Charges were dismissed.
  • An arrest was made, but charges were not filed.
  • The trial resulted in a not-guilty verdict.
  • The case was dropped through nolle prosequi (decision not to pursue prosecution).
  • A court denied an order of protection following a legal proceeding.

People who have completed a pretrial diversion program (except for sexual offenses) and have their charges dismissed under Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 40-15-102 through 40-15-107 are also eligible for expungement. However, they must pay the required filing fees.

Process for Filing for Expungement

Eligible individuals must file for expungement in the court where a case was initially handled, which could be a trial or general sessions court. The process generally includes the following steps:

  1. Gather necessary case information (such as docket number and offense details) required to file for the expungement. Individuals who do not have a copy of their records can obtain them from the court clerk.
  2. Submit a petition to the presiding court for expungement. Court clerks can provide the necessary forms. Individuals may have to fill out separate forms to expunge records related to multiple charges.
  3. Specify the charges eligible for expungement and submit the documentation to the criminal court clerk. A petitioner does not have to appear in court personally.
  4. Provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for each charge being expunged to receive copies of the expungement documents. The court clerk will deliver each expungement order through the used envelopes.
  5. Request certified copies of the expungement order and the charging document from the criminal court clerk, which will be mailed in the provided envelopes.

A judge reviews each expungement petition, and if approved, the court will forward the expungement order to the appropriate agencies to complete the expungement process.

Note that if a charge was "dismissed with costs," it indicates outstanding court costs that must be settled before the expungement can proceed. It might be possible to have these costs waived.

If a record mentions a charge as "retired," this means the case was indefinitely postponed. To qualify for expungement, a request must be made to reclassify the retired case as dismissed.

Furthermore, publicly unavailable arrest histories, investigative reports, and other sensitive records that law enforcement agencies or district attorneys keep secret for police work will not be expunged. However, Tennessee law prohibits law enforcement and related agencies from releasing these records, especially after expungement.

How Do I Find Recent Arrests in Tennessee?

Individuals can find recent arrests by visiting the website of a local law enforcement agency. For example, the Knox County Sheriff runs a 24 Hours in Custody webpage that displays people who have been recently detained for various crimes. The page shows pertinent arrest details, such as an individual's name, date of birth, photograph, charges, and bond details. It also shows court dates and booking information.

Members of the public can also visit their county sheriff's office or local police department to verify if their loved ones are currently detained for an alleged offense.

Are Tennessee Arrest Records Free?

Yes. Public arrest records can be obtained for free in Tennessee, but only when the record custodian does not produce or certify copies of the documents. Generally, copy fees vary by agency. In some cases, there are different fee schedules for residents and non-residents of Tennessee.

Tennessee Arrest Records
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