Whether or not arrest records are a public record in Florida is a somewhat complicated question. There has been a Public Records Law on the books in Florida since 1909, which states, “All state, county, and municipal records shall at all times be open for a personal inspection of any citizen…” However, this law was challenged in the 1937 case of Lee v. Beach Publishing Co.
Lee v. Beach Publishing Co stated that “the right of inspection does not extend to all public records or documents, for public policy demands that some of them, although of a public matter, must be kept secret and free from common inspection.” The decision goes on to provide examples including letters and dispatches in the detective police services or related to apprehension and prosecution.
Unfortunately, this decision was vaguely worded and left the choice to disclose files up to the police officers and investigators, which led to what became known as the Police Secrets Rule. Anytime an officer or detective didn’t want something to be a public record, they could claim it was a matter of public concern that the information not be released.
There were several new decisions and clarifications throughout the 1960s and 1970s as people challenged the law as it was interpreted. Eventually, the courts clarified that records should only be kept out of public records if they pertained to an ongoing investigation, and releasing them would compromise law enforcement’s ability to continue with investigation or prosecution.
Volusia County, Florida, is located on the northeast coast of the state and includes such populated areas as Daytona Beach. The population of the county is nearly 540,000 people. You can pursue Volusia county arrest records within the various cities of Volusia County or directly through the county, depending on the jurisdiction of the arrest.
Determining where you need to go for the arrest records may seem complicated, but it is best to start with the department the arrest was processed through and go from there. Unfortunately, public servants are not always overly helpful with providing information or pointing you in the correct direction if you are trying to determine where the data is that you need.
Once something is logged as public information, it is available in a variety of different online databases. It may be helpful to start with an online service like GoLookUp, which can scour the web for any public information about the person you are researching. You may find everything you need through this service, or you may get enough information to further the research on your own.
If the arrest was in a smaller town that isn’t really on top of their data entry, it might take some time for the information you want to be available through online databases. However, if you can find out where the arrest was and what the charge was, you can get more information from the department directly.
As explained, you may run into some problems if the information you are looking for is part of an ongoing investigation. However, there are some ways around that. For example, there is a provision in the Florida State law that states the person who has possession of the reports has the discretion to show those reports when requested under supervision.
That means that if you can find the detective with the reports, you can ask to see them. Getting permission may take some cajoling; however, if you convince the detective to let you see them, you can at least read the report in their presence and receive the information you can remember to continue your research.