How Do I Know If I Have Been Charged With a Crime?

how do i know if i have been charged with a crime

Crime is a social problem faced by every modern society. A crime is defined as any action omitted or committed that the law forbids. For example, selling or buying drugs is prohibited by American law, and doing such an offensive act will bring a criminal charge levied upon you. A criminal charge is any formal accusation by the prosecutor or the police officer affirming that a person has committed a crime.

You may get anxious about what comes next if you suspect you have been charged with a crime. You presumably know that you need a legal defense to help you avoid conviction if arrested. But how would you know that you have been charged with a crime in the United States of America? 

Charges do not necessarily start with an arrest, and the process for charging someone with a crime is complicated. Police officers are not obliged to notify you of any active investigation or if they’re planning to file charges against you. 

So, there is no straightforward way to find out if you have been charged, but there are some other ways by which you can know if you have been accused of a crime in America. 

What is a Criminal Record?

A criminal record is the collection of documents showing all the times a person has interacted with the U.S. Criminal Justice System. The content of a felonious record is chronological and includes descriptions of a person’s prior offense to the latest crime. 

A person’s criminal records possess information on the arrest, circumstances leading to it, information about the individual arrested, their trial, the trial result, incarceration, investigation, parole information, and more. 

Process for Being Charged With a Crime in the USA 

You might suppose that a police officer charges you with a crime. Police are responsible for probing crimes, gathering substantiation to support offensive charges, and filing a report with the state prosecutor. 

The prosecutor reviews the proof to determine whether the state has enough evidence to gain a conviction. After that, you are charged with a crime by the prosecutors. 

The state must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A criminal defense lawyer helps build sufficient doubt in the mind of the judge or the jury. 

Can You Get Charged With a Crime If You Were Not Arrested?

You might get charged with a crime without an arrest, and the state prosecutor can charge you with a crime and allow you to turn yourself in. There is also the possibility that you could be issued a notice. 

However, you must appear in court on a specific date and time. Failure to do so could affect a warrant for your arrest for failure to appear. 

Are Criminal Records Public? 

Criminal records are accessible to the public under the Freedom of Information Act and State Public Record Laws. Civilians may get the documents in this record from the record custodian without previous authorization. 

Still, note that the record custodian varies with the governance. Various states designate the primary law enforcement agency as the record custodian. Others integrate felonious record searches with court case searches and assign the clerk of courts as the record custodian for criminal background reports. 

How Do I Acquire Criminal Records?

Interested persons who wish to look up felonious records have two options: 

  • The first is submitting an official request application to the record custodian. Record custodians have record request protocols allowing public requesters to send mail requests, conduct an online search for felonious records of interest, or make in-person visits. Among these, online search is the fastest. Still, in-person and mail requests for felonious records are characteristically slow.
  • The other option is to use independent, third-party search services for on-demand access to any criminal charge levied. Checking free public criminal records is possible too. Still, the information attained is generally limited or deficient. 

What is an Arrest Record?

An arrest record, or arrest report, is the document generated when law enforcement officers take any person into custody. Generally, the police will take a person into custody with a warrant for arrest for a suspected crime. 

Police officers can make arrests without arrest warrants if there is probable cause to take the existent into custody. In any case, the arresting officer must produce an arrest report describing the circumstances encircling the arrest. 

The arrest report will also have information on the result of the arrest, similar to a court arraignment or indictment. An arrest record can be a sturdy document or part of an individual’s criminal record. 

How Do I Get Public Arrest Records?

The Freedom of Information Act and State Public Record Laws allow members to look up public arrest records and obtain copies. Most states allow interested parties to gain free arrest records on the arresting agency’s or bar’s website. 

Accessing the information is free on these legalized websites. Still, the information is not always comprehensive enough to convey the circumstances covering the arrest. 

If a public requester can not get free arrest records from these sanctioned websites. The interested requester must visit the offices of these record custodians or send a mail request. Arrest records from legal record custodians are generally affordable. The requester only pays a nominal figure to copy, certify, or authenticate the arrest record. 


Sometimes, you may receive a mail notifying you that you have been called to arraignment or a preliminary hearing. However, you can always communicate with your original police department for information if you suspect you are charged, even if you have not been arrested or entered into any process. By asking the department to conduct a warrant check, you can uncover any criminal charges filed against you. 

It is important to note that the police do not need to inform you of any ongoing examinations against you. Still, if charges have officially been filed, you have the right to request a copy of the charge sheet from the District Attorney’s Office to understand what you have been accused of. Let an attorney on your behalf handle communication with law enforcement is best. 


What is the simplest way to find out that you have got charged with a crime?

The simplest way to find out you get charged with a crime is if you get arrested by the police officers and receive a summons for appearing at an arraignment.

Are arrest records public?

Yes, access to arrest records is a civilian right in most states. Still, the information could be limited and grounded on court rules. If the court decides that the arrest records could affect individual privacy, they are kept private.

Are arrest records free?

Mainly, Free arrest records do not generally exist. However, numerous arrest records are affordable. Costs related to copying expenses, authentication fees, and certification charges may apply.

How can I get to know about my charges during an arraignment?

An arraignment is the first hearing, not a trial or conviction. At the arraignment, the judge states the charges levied upon you, by which you can take further actions.

Will the summon include a copy of the complaint?

Usually, a summon comes with a copy of the complaint, and it consists of all the facts related to the crime and contains the charges levied so that you get a better idea of the accusations against you.