Wisconsin Court Records
Wisconsin Arrest Records
Per Wis. Stat. § 968.07, a law enforcement officer is authorized to arrest a person when a warrant has been issued, or there are reasonable grounds to believe that an individual is committing or has committed a crime. After the arrest, the suspect is brought into custody for booking. The booking process takes about an hour, and it includes recording the suspect's name, the crime they committed, mugshot, fingerprints, DNA samples, health screening, and taking their personal belongings. The information obtained during the booking process is documented to create a Wisconsin arrest record.
An arrest record in Wisconsin contains detailed information about a person's arrests, arrest charges, prosecution, court findings, and sentences. The record is an accumulation of information submitted by Wisconsin law enforcement agencies like local police departments and County Sheriff's Offices. Arrest records allow inquirers to know if a person has been arrested, the arrest location, and determine if the arrest is a safety issue or something less concerning.
The Wisconsin Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Arrest Data revealed that about 190,300 statewide arrests were recorded in 2022, a 2,750 increase from 2021. About 163,393 of those arrested in 2022 were adults, and 26,907 were juveniles. Most of these individuals were arrested for violent crimes (7,177), property crimes (27,046), society crimes (56,872), drug crimes (24,780), and other crimes (74,425).
Are Arrest Records Public in Wisconsin?
Yes. According to the State Public Records Law, arrest records are public records in Wisconsin. Anyone can obtain arrest records by querying the record custodian office provided they satisfy the requirements established by the Wisconsin Legislature. However, the right to publicly inspect or copy arrest records does not apply to confidential or expunged information. Such records are only open to a few, like record holders, legal representatives, or law enforcement officers. Non-public arrest records can only be disclosed to the public following a court order. Confidential arrest records in Wisconsin include:
- Juvenile arrest records (Wis. Stat. § 938.396)
- Investigatory records
- Personally identifiable information contained in an arrest record that can identify a confidential informant or endanger a person's life
What is Included in Wisconsin Arrest Records?
Wisconsin law enforcement agencies share arrest records with the public upon request. A typical arrest record contains the following information:
- Arrestee's first and last name
- Arrestee's age, sex, race, height, weight, hair, and eye color.
- Arrest agency
- Arrest type
- Mugshot of the arrested person
- Arrest date and time
- Arrest charges
- Statute description
- Location of arrest
- Court case number (if applicable)
Find Public Arrest Records in Wisconsin
Each law enforcement agency in Wisconsin has unique guidelines on how individuals can request arrest records in its custody. However, in most cases, inquirers will find public arrest records in Wisconsin by following these steps:
- Step 1: Identify the records custodian: Depending on where the arrest occurred and the nature of the offense, arrest records may be in the custody of local police departments, county sheriff's offices, or the Wisconsin Department of Justice (WisDOJ). Inquirers can contact these agencies by phone or email to inquire if a specific record is in their custody.
- Step 2: Determine the records request procedures: After determining the custodian in charge of an arrest record, the next step would be to review their records request procedure. Most law enforcement agencies publish information on arrest records request procedures on their website. Some have designated phone numbers, email addresses, or fax numbers that can be used to inquire about requesting Wisconsin arrest records from their office.
- Step 3: Submit the request: There are different ways of submitting an arrest record request, depending on the record custodian. For example, the WisDOJ only permits the online submission of arrest records. In contrast, City Police Departments/County Sheriff's Offices provide access to arrest records online, by phone, fax, mail, or in person. Some law enforcement agencies have online portals that can be used to conduct an arrest search by name, while some just provide a list of arrested persons in their custody on their websites. If the record custodian does not have an online portal or arrest roster, there will likely be a form in the records section of the agency's website to make a mail request for arrest records. In-person requests involve visiting the record custodian during office hours to request a copy of an arrest record. To visit, inquirers will first need to confirm the custodian's address and request an appointment (if applicable). Record staff would request basic information about the arrest, like the arrestee's name, arrest date, or arrest number, to proceed with the request.
- Step 4: Pay the necessary fees: Record custodians can only disseminate copies of arrest records when the necessary fees have been paid. These fees differ by agency. For example, the WisDOJ charges between $5 and $15 for requesting arrest records (Wis. Stat. § 165.82). City Police departments typically disseminate arrest records for about $3.
In certain instances, a court can issue a subpoena requiring a law enforcement agency to disclose non-public arrest records within a reasonable time. The law enforcement agency will review the desired record and determine whether any special response to the subpoena is required. This response can be a protective order or motion to quash the subpoena. Where there are no exceptional circumstances, the confidential record will be sent to the court which issued the subpoena.
How to Lookup Arrest Records Online in Wisconsin
Most law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin provide access to arrest records online. For example, the Dane County Sheriff's Office has a Current Resident list where individuals can look up arrest information of incarcerated individuals. Similarly, the City of Janesville Police Department provides links to Adult Arrest Reports on a dedicated web page every month. Interested persons can also use third-party online portals to look up recent Wisconsin arrest records. Basic information like the arrestee's name and age would be required to process the request at the initial stage. However, more information may be necessary to narrow the search. The search will return basic information about the arrest for free, but extensive searches come at a cost.
How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, arrest records of individuals convicted of a crime generally remain on record accompanying the arrest. However, public access to arrest records can be restricted through expungement. This means that the person's arrest records would not be visible to employers, landlords, and the general public when a background check is run on them. Note that arrest information of persons displayed on the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) website has a record retention schedule. Arrests for misdemeanor offenses are retained for 20 years, but arrests for felony offenses are retained for 50 years. Arrests for Class A felony crimes are retained for 75 years.
Expunge an Arrest Record in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, an expungement refers to the sealing of an arrest record from the general public so that no one can access such files with a court order. Wisconsin differs from other states where the timing of expungement is concerned. Arrestees can request an expungement of their arrest records during sentencing. Wisconsin law does not allow individuals to petition for expungement after they have been sentenced. A judge may order that a person's arrest record be expunged if specific eligibility requirements are met and the person has completed their sentence. Per Wis. Stats. 973.015, expungement is available only for:
- Misdemeanors or certain felonies committed by persons under the age of 25 whose maximum period of imprisonment is six (6) years or less and whose sentence is completed;
- Crimes under Wis. Stats. 942.08 (2) (b), (c), or (d) or (3) committed by individuals under the age of 18, and the sentence for the offense has been completed;
- Individuals who committed a commercial sex act as victims of human trafficking (Wis. Stat. § 973.015(2m)).
Outside the aforementioned situations, a judge is unlikely to grant the expungement petition. For example, Wisconsin law does not allow judges to expunge arrest records associated with traffic citations or civil or small claims cases. Additionally, Wisconsin law does not permit the expungement of Class H or I felony conviction records if the arrested person has a prior felony conviction and the current offense is considered violent (as defined in s. 301.048 (2) (bm)).
Wisconsin arrest records of individuals placed on probation or sentenced to serve time in jail or prison are usually automatically expunged after completing the sentence. However, individuals only sentenced to pay a fine or restitution can request a Circuit Court to expunge their arrest records by submitting a Petition to Expunge Court Record of Conviction (Non-Probation/ Non-Incarceration) form. A Petition to Expunge Court Record of Adjudication/ Recommendation of District Attorney form can be submitted to have juvenile arrest records removed.
How Do I Find Recent Arrests in Wisconsin?
Some law enforcement agencies have online portals where requesters can find recent arrests in Wisconsin. A typical example is County Sheriff Offices. These offices have inmate search tools that return results on inmate arrest information. Other ways of finding recent arrests in Wisconsin are by phone, email, mail, or in person. Record custodians usually have designated phone numbers, email and mail addresses, and physical addresses on their websites for such services. For example, individuals can submit a request for arrest records at the City of Madson Police Department by phone at (608) 266-4075, by fax at (608) 267-1117, by mail or in person during office hours (Monday to Friday; 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m) at the addresses published at the Department's Records Section.
Are Wisconsin Arrest Records Free?
Yes, individuals can retrieve arrest records for free on City Police Departments and County Sheriff's Office's websites. Most city police departments have arrest logs (like the City of Beloit Police Department where individuals can find arrest records at no cost. Similarly, County Sheriff's Offices have inmate rosters (like the Douglas County Sheriff's Office) and inmate locators (like the La Crosse County Sheriff's Office) that can be used to access arrest records for free. In addition, some agencies public wanted notices and arrest logs on site and in-person queries will require no additional payment to access these logs.
Interested individuals can also use third-party websites to retrieve basic arrest information at no cost, as comprehensive services might attract a small fee. In most cases, the inquirer must enter a first or last name or any other search criteria that may be required to narrow the search.