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Cook County Arrest Records

Arrests in Cook County generally occur when a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe someone is culpable for a criminal offense (725 ILCS 5/Art. 107). However, the sequence of events preceding an arrest differs by case. Sometimes, an officer's direct observation of a state law or municipal ordinance violation or response to a crime report may lead to a person's apprehension. In other cases, an arrest may occur after a police investigation has been completed, a complaint filed in court, and a warrant issued for a suspect's arrest.

Whatever the case, people arrested in Cook County are typically processed ("booked") at the nearest police station or jail facility. Afterward, they may be released without criminal charges or formally charged with an offense.

Processing involves the collection of a suspect's personal information, fingerprints, photographs, offense details, and other relevant data. The data is then used to fill out some police forms, including an arrest report.

Cook County arrest records are crucial for filing criminal charges and offer some insight into a person's past. As such, information in them may appear in Cook County court records, criminal history reports, inmate files, and other publicly accessible documents preserved within the Illinois criminal justice system.

Are Arrest Records Public in Cook County?

Yes. Arrest records are public in Cook County under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Per this law, members of the public have the right to inspect or copy records maintained by public entities, regardless of a record's physical form or characteristics. This includes documents or files generated by law enforcement agencies while conducting their official business, such as arrest records.

Still, not all governmental records pertaining to an arrest are disclosable to the public in Cook County. Sec. 2.15 of the Illinois FOIA specifically authorizes the release of arrest reports and criminal history records maintained by state or local criminal justice agencies. However, these records may be withheld under these circumstances:

  • Where disclosure would interfere with a pending law enforcement proceeding
  • Where disclosure would compromise a correctional facility's security
  • Where disclosure would endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement/correctional personnel or others

Additionally, the FOIA prohibits the following releases by law enforcement:

  • Juvenile arrest records
  • Booking photographs ("mugshots") related to civil offenses, business offenses, petty offenses, Class C misdemeanors, and Class B misdemeanors on social networking websites. Exceptions apply where the publication is necessary to locate a missing person, person of interest, or individual wanted in connection with a crime other than a business offense, petty offense, Class C misdemeanor, or Class B misdemeanor.

What Do Public Arrest Records Contain?

Public arrest records in Cook County typically feature the following information according to 5 ILCS 140/2.15:

  • An arrestee's identifying details, which include the suspect's name, alias(es), address, age, gender, photograph, height, and weight.
  • Information about any charges for which the arrest was necessary, such as the offense code and description
  • The arrest time and location
  • The investigating or arresting law enforcement agency
  • The time and date the suspect was received, discharged, or transferred from the arresting department's custody (if the individual is incarcerated)
  • Bond type and amount

Cook County Crime Rate

According to the latest Crime in Illinois (CII) publication circulated by the Illinois State Police (ISP), law enforcement in Cook County reported 151,399 offenses occurring locally in 2021. This number represents a significant 15.7% increase in the county's total reported offenses compared to the previous year.

Among the five topmost crimes in the more serious "Group A" category were simple assault, larceny, vandalism, intimidation, and fraud. Simple assault constituted 24.1% (or 36,539) of the offense total, followed closely by larceny at 21.8% (33,092 occurrences) and vandalism at 17.1% (25,964 incidents). Intimidation and fraud accounted for 8% (12,159 offenses) and 7.9% (11,957 offenses), respectively.

Cook County's index crime rate in 2021 stood at 984.4 per 100,000 of the population.

Note: Index crimes are the 10 most serious offenses, which indicate the overall crime rate in Cook County. These offenses include criminal homicide, theft, arson, rape, robbery, aggravated battery/aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, human trafficking involuntary servitude, and human trafficking commercial sex acts.

Cook County Arrest Statistics

There were 12,988 "Group A" arrests in Cook County in 2021, as stated in the ISP's Crime in Illinois (CII) 2021 publication. Of this number, 92.6% (12,021) were adult arrests, and 7.3% (945) were juvenile arrests. The crimes comprising the bulk of arrests in the Group A category were simple assault (4,790 arrests), larceny (1,802 arrests), and weapons law violations (719 arrests).

Meanwhile, the total number of "Group B" arrests (encompassing minor offenses) was 7,858. Whereas adult arrests constituted approximately 93% (7,306) of the total, juvenile arrests accounted for approximately 7% (548). Driving under the influence (DUI) (2,671 incidents), trespassing (723 incidents), and disorderly conduct (333 incidents) were the most common Group B arrests.

In sum, Cook County recorded 20,846 arrests in 2021, resulting in an index crime arrest rate of 85.7 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Find Cook County Arrest Records

To check for a Cook County arrest record, contact the police department or law enforcement agency that made an arrest. Local law enforcement agencies offer various options for requesting or obtaining arrest records, such as in person, by mail, via email/fax, or online.

For example, the Cook County Sheriff's Office has a dedicated FOIA webpage for requesting arrest and other agency records disclosable under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. Interested individuals can also submit these requests in person at Room 701, Civil Process Division, at the Richard J. Daley Center or by mail to:

Cook County Sheriff's Office
Attn: Freedom of Information Officer
Richard J. Daley Center
50 West Washington
Room 704
Chicago, Illinois 60602

Similarly, individuals can submit arrest record inquiries to other police agencies in Cook County, such as the Bridgeview Police Department or Chicago Police Department, by following the instructions on their respective websites. Some law enforcement agencies also maintain online systems where the public can search for arrest records themselves.

However, the following should be noted:

  • A police precinct or department can only disclose records of arrests made by its officers.
  • Certain arrest records can only be released to the subject of a record (with ID).
  • Each FOIA request must contain sufficient information to allow the custodian to identify the sought-after record. This may include an arrestee's name, date of birth, or arrest date/location.

Further, where a federal agency takes a person into custody in Cook County, they can search the Federal Inmate Locator or contact a local field office. If the arrest was made by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, the Online Detainee Locator System can be searched for the arrestee's whereabouts. Such online systems are usually accessible by name or number. However, a person apprehended by a federal agency might be held in a local jail in the district where the court proceedings will take place.

Finally, where an inquiry pertains to locating a person arrested in Cook County but sentenced to an Illinois prison, the inquirer can access the state's Department of Corrections Individual-In-Custody Search with a last name, birth date, or IDOC number.

Free Arrest Record Search in Cook County

In Cook County, individuals can obtain arrest records for free under the Freedom of Information Act. The Illinois FOIA permits anyone to inspect open records without cost, although with potential duplication charges. Accordingly, several local law enforcement agencies uphold the FOIA by providing web-based databases where people can look up arrest records for free without submitting a direct request.

An example is the Cook County Sheriff's Office Individual-In-Custody Locator, which is used to find people arrested and booked into the Cook County jail. Others include the Chicago Police Department Arrest Record Search and Skokie Police Department Arrest Search portals.

Notably, arrest record searches can also be performed on third-party aggregator websites. These websites, run by private entities, collect and aggregate public records from various repositories for consumers. However, while searching for free on a third-party site is often possible, the user may need to subscribe or pay a one-time fee to view a record.

Get Cook County Criminal Records

A criminal record in Cook County is a compilation of arrests, charges, court dispositions, sentencing information, and custodial data pertaining to a specific individual.

The responsibility for maintaining criminal records in Illinois is not solely vested in any particular law enforcement or criminal justice agency. Courts, state's attorney offices, correctional facilities, and law enforcement divisions may hold some form of criminal record information. However, the State Police's Bureau of Identification (BOI) preserves Illinois's most comprehensive criminal records database, making the department an adequate starting point for inquiries into Cook County criminal records.

The BOI provides a Record Access and Review Process for obtaining statewide criminal history record information (CHRI) transcripts or "rap sheets". The service is free, but the requester must submit fingerprints to the agency through a vendor, and fingerprint vendors may charge processing fees. Notably, the service is only provided to subjects of records. The BOI does not release these records to the general public.

Nonetheless, members of the public can still query the Bureau of Identification for criminal records, but only conviction information can be released to the public per 20 ILCS 2635/1 et seq. "Conviction information" includes arrests, charges, court dispositions, and custodial information (if applicable) associated with judgment of guilt or nolo contendere in a court of law. Interested individuals can submit a Uniform Conviction Information Act (UCIA) request form (fingerprint or name-based) to the BOI. The relevant fees and instructions (pages 3-14) are available on the ISP's website.

A person can also request nationwide rap sheets from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for $18. The service is not available to the general public, only subjects of records. Ordering instructions are available on the FBI and ISP websites.

Note: As mentioned, the ISP's Bureau of Identification maintains most criminal records in Illinois. However, subjects of records searching for criminal records in the City of Chicago can send a request to the Chicago Police Department. The department disseminates adult Chicago RAP Sheets, which list all arrests, charges, and court dispositions that happened in Chicago. Requesters can also opt to receive their state rap sheet from the department for no additional cost.

The Chicago Police Department provides an informational guide for Illinois residents, which includes stopping by the Public Safety Headquarters for fingerprinting. Applicants must also provide identification (a state driver's license or ID card) and pay the $16 processing fee to the city's Department of Revenue. Out-of-state applicants can find ordering guidelines on the department's website.

Cook County Arrest Records Vs. Criminal Records

The critical distinction between an arrest and criminal record in Cook County lies in the level of detail. An arrest record only shows offenses for which a person was apprehended. It does not include the court case outcome or the prosecutor's filing decisions. In contrast, a criminal record presents a comprehensive summary of a person's contacts with the criminal justice system, encompassing everything from the initial arrest or charge to the final court sentencing.

Because an arrest record does not definitively establish a person's guilt in a criminal matter, it is not sufficient for official purposes like employment, licensing, or tenancy screening. However, a criminal record will reveal which charges were filed in court and if a conviction resulted from the legal proceedings.

How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record?

Permanently. Any arrest entered on a person's record in Cook County stays there indefinitely. However, state law permits expungement or sealing as a way to erase or hide certain records.

Expunge Cook County Arrest Records

Illinois law allows eligible arrests, convictions, and court supervisions to be expunged or sealed by court order (20 ILCS 2630/5.2705 ILCS 405/5-915). An expungement physically destroys a record so that it is like it never existed or returns it to the petitioner. Meanwhile, sealing conceals the record from the general public; however, criminal justice agencies and certain employers will still be able to review it.

To obtain an expungement or sealing for a Cook County adult arrest record, the record owner must complete these steps:

  • Obtain copies of their criminal records. These include one's Chicago RAP Sheet, ISP Statewide Criminal History Transcript, and court disposition, where applicable. There are no court dispositions for arrests or charges that did not result in a court case.
  • Review the records to see if they qualify for an expungement or sealing. An attorney can be consulted for this step. Generally, a person can expunge arrests or charges that did not lead to a conviction. For arrests not eligible for expungement, a party may qualify for sealing.
  • Complete the expungement or sealing forms.
  • File the forms in the Cook County Circuit Court. If arrested or charged in a different county, the forms must be filed in that county. If having arrests or charges in more than one county, the forms must be filed in each applicable county.
  • Pay the relevant filing and court costs unless qualifying for a fee waiver.

The How to Expunge or Seal Adult Criminal Records and How to Expunge Juvenile Records booklets provide detailed information about the expungement process in Illinois, and by extension, Cook County. The state's expungement forms also contain instructions for petitioners.

Note that some arrest records are automatically expunged in Illinois after a specific period passes. These include some juvenile arrest and court records and minor cannabis offenses. However, the automatic expungement process for cannabis arrests does not erase the court records. The petitioner must still file a Motion to Vacate and Expunge with the court.

Cook County Arrest Warrants

Sec. 107-1 of the Illinois Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 defines an "arrest warrant" as a written order from a judge directing a peace officer or another designated person to apprehend a particular individual. In Cook County, arrest warrants may be issued upon formal complaint to the court establishing reasonable grounds ("probable cause") that a crime occurred and an individual is responsible. A court may also issue an arrest warrant when someone violates a court order (725 ILCS 5/110-3).

According to 725 ILCS 5/107-9, arrest warrants issued in Cook County include the following components:

  • The name or description of the suspect to be arrested
  • The perpetrated offense
  • The municipality or county of issuance
  • The issuing judge's signature and title of office
  • A directive to bring the suspect before the issuing court or the nearest or most accessible court in the county
  • The conditions for pretrial release, if any
  • Any geographical restrictions on the warrant's execution

Cook County Arrest Warrant Search

To look up an arrest warrant in Cook County, an individual may call or visit the police department having jurisdiction where the warrant was issued. Generally, local law enforcement agencies do not provide online warrant lists or systems that the public can access to find active warrants.

Another option for finding active arrest warrants in the county is to visit the Cook Circuit Court Clerk's office to search court cases. The Circuit Clerk also maintains a public Online Case Information System to look up summaries of court case events, including whether the court approved an arrest warrant.

Do Cook County Arrest Warrants Expire?

No, arrest warrants do not expire in Cook County. Such warrants stay active until executed by the authorities or recalled by the court. This perpetual validity dissuades people from evading or exploiting the justice system. It also guarantees that offenders are held accountable, notwithstanding the passage of time, and it keeps the public informed of potential threats within the community.

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