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How to Find out If Someone Is in Jail

Police Handcuffs on fingerprints crime page file

Locating someone can be a tough task; particularly if you are not in the same area with friends or family in common. Even unusual names can be shared by dozens of people. Records can be incomplete, out of date, or just plain wrong. When you’re looking for someone and have no success, one avenue worth checking is whether they are being held in jail.

Is Jail a Possibility?

Depending on a person’s history and habits, you will probably have a good idea of how likely it is that they are in jail, but there is a first time for everything – and mistaken arrests happen too. A history of criminal behavior can predict future criminal behaviors, but just because someone is hard to find doesn’t always mean they are in jail. Maybe they movedchanged jobs, were ill, got married, had a baby, went on vacation, or had other life changes that kept them occupied. If you can rule out these possibilities and still come up with no answer, it’s a good idea to consider whether the person you are looking for has been jailed instead.

Further, most jails restrict an inmate’s use of the Internet and forbid the use of social media, so when a person suddenly stops posting updates or responding to emails, and no one seems to know where they are, consider whether there is a possibility that they’ve been jailed.

Police lineup or mugshot of anonymous male silhouette

5 Tips to Help Discover If Someone Has Been Jailed

Determining the time and place of the person’s last known whereabouts can be very helpful when you are starting a search of jailed inmates. If you can, try to figure out when the person was last seen or heard from by a reliable source. This will give you an idea of when they might have been picked up, or at least a starting point for your search.

1) Do a Warrant Search

Even if someone isn’t in jail (yet) one reason they may be hiding is that they are the subject of an arrest warrant. Starting here can sometimes rule out a current incarceration. If you find a warrant, the person likely has not yet been arrested or at least isn’t in custody in that area yet, since the warrant is still active. Plus, you know where to keep checking back to see if they’ve been picked up.

A warrant search can also give you information about types of possible criminal activity the person has engaged in. This can be useful when conducting other types of searches. When searching, take good notes on the following:

  • Information that you search for.
  • Keywords you use.
  • Specific time frames that you search.
  • Where you search.
  • The results you find.

These steps can help you avoid wasting time on duplicate searches.

A newspaper with the headline Local News

2) Check Local Papers

Many local newspapers have an online version. Sometimes they will post a column of local police and court actions, as well as public occurrences; these can be searchable by name. Make sure to check any aliases or name variations the person uses, if you know them. Don’t limit yourself to the person’s hometown; check surrounding towns and cities, as well as places you know they visit or travel. When a person is picked up on a warrant or arrested for a crime, local papers often publish and then follow up on the story as it develops.

Another type of source to check is a local paper that features mugshots and arrest records. Such publications go by various names, but the concept is a tabloid that features notable public arrests and court records taken from the public records database. These will sometimes have a questionable business model that features first time or nonviolent offenders for embarrassing arrests like bad checks, drunk driving, or domestic incidents. Offenders can pay a large fee to have their information removed to protect their reputations. Ethics aside, if you suspect someone may be in jail, this can be a source of information for your search.

An online mugshot search can also help you identify if someone has been processed into a jail or holding facility.

3) Check Local TV News Station Websites

News background with world map of blue LED lights and headline bar tag

Like local papers, local television news websites often cover crime stories. They are worth searching, as they often try to feature exclusive or sensational stories ahead of the competing stations. Journalists also know how to file Freedom of Information Act inquiries when they research stories, so you may uncover other facts, as well. This means that it’s worth checking all the websites for local news shows in the area, not just one.

4) Check Local Court Records

Most jurisdictions have court records that are searchable online. Civil courts don’t generally jail people (except for contempt of court). Save time by searching only criminal court records to find out if someone is in jail. Again, you will want to start with a timeframe and use all the variations of someone’s name plus any past names, maiden names, or aliases. Check surrounding counties, as well as areas the person is known to spend time.

5) Conduct an Inmate Search

Local sheriff offices generally offer a searchable site of jailed persons, so you can start there. If you don’t come up with anything, you can try calling the local magistrate’s office and asking if they have the person in custody. If you don’t find anything, try the county court websites. Each area is different, but CheckThem offers a guide to finding inmates in various states. Search this blog for the particular state you are checking, but be sure to check nearby states as well.

Laptop computer with magnifying glass

Use CheckThem

Of course, if conducting a search for a person on your own sounds like a lot of time and effort, you are correct. Searching through numerous sources and records can be very frustrating and time-consuming, especially if the person you’re looking for isn’t in jail to begin with, or gets transferred or released before you find them.

Instead of wasting hours, days, and even weeks hunting though scattered, incomplete, and out of date records, you could conduct a people search through CheckThem.com. CheckThem scours billions of verified data sources for the most accurate and up-to-date results – and fast. When you are trying to locate someone, time can be precious. CheckThem offers an anonymous, quick, and affordable way to get information on anyone, anywhere, anytime.