Criminal Defense Blog NYC

Free Investigation Tools

Posted by Bruce Yerman, Esq. on August 30, 2019

Investigation ToolsA variety of free investigation tools are available online.

Criminal defense lawyers use these investigation tools to identify people, locate them, and learn important information about them. You can do the same.

You can also use these tools to find important information about yourself or someone you care about. For example:

  • When is my next court date?
  • What courtroom must I go to?
  • How much bail must I post to get my brother out of jail?

How Do I Find Out About My NY Criminal Case?

The New York State Unified Court System maintains a website that's often referred to as "WebCrims":

WebCrimsEnter your first name and last name in WebCrims to find out information about your open New York criminal case, such as the date and location of your next court date.

WebCrims only provides information about cases that have future court dates. It won't provide information about your case if your case is over, because there are no future court dates at that point.

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How Do I Find Out about Someone Else's NY Criminal Case?

You can plug anyone's name into WebCrims, not just your own.

For example, as a criminal defense lawyer, I might want to know if a prosecution witness has an open criminal case. I can enter the name of the witness into WebCrims to find out. If the witness has a pending case, I can find such information as:

  • Charges filed against the witness.
  • The year the witness was born.
  • The New York State Identification ("NYSID") number of the witness.
  • The date of incident.
  • The date of arrest.

Tip: If a defendant gave a false name to police, or if police spelled the defendant's name wrong, you won't find the defendant's name in the database by entering the correct spelling of the defendant's name.

Tip: If a defendant has a first name and a last name that both sound like last names (for example, "Anderson Cooper"), or that both sound like first names ("John Thomas"), police might mistakenly book the defendant with his first and last names switched. So, if you search for Anderson Cooper, also search for Cooper Anderson.

Tip: If a defendant has a name that's difficult to spell, there's a good chance that police spelled it wrong. However, you only need to enter a minimum of the first two letters of the defendant's first name and last name to get results. So, if you were to search for Bill "Belichick", you could enter his first name as "Bill" or "William", and his last name as "Be".

How Do I Find Information about a NY Lawyer?

The New York State court system has a website for looking up information about lawyers – the New York State Unified Court System eCourts Attorney Search:

New York State Unified Court System eCourts Attorney Search

You don't have to enter the lawyer's entire name. In the example above, the first three letters of the lawyer's first and last name are entered, leading to these results:

eCourts Attorney DetailBeginning with the lawyer's name, you receive the following information about the lawyer:

  • Employer's name
  • Business address
  • Telephone number
  • Email address
  • Bar registration number
  • Law school attended
  • Date became a lawyer in New York
  • Bar registration status
  • Disciplinary history

You can use the website to find information about a lawyer to help you make a hiring decision. Relevant information might include disciplinary history, date admitted to practice law in New York, and law school attended.

You can also use the website to help you size up the lawyer representing your adversary.

How Do I Find Information about a Person Jailed in NYC?

You can find information about a friend who is currently detained or imprisoned in the custody of New York City by using the Department of Correction's Inmate Lookup Service:

NYC Department of Correction Inmate Lookup Service

If you're a friend or family member of a person in custody in New York City, you can use the website to:

  • Find out whether the person is being held at Rikers Island, or one of the other City jails.
  • Find out what the person's bail is.
  • Post bail for the person if the Court has authorized bail of $2,500 or less to be posted by credit card or debit card.
  • Send money for the person to spend at the jail commissary.

If you're investigating the background of a person in custody in New York City, you can use the website to find out the following information about the person:

  • Year of birth.
  • Arrest date.
  • Next Court date.
  • Docket number or indictment number.
  • Amount of bail.
  • Charges filed against the person.
  • Whether the person is being held on warrants.

If a person doesn't appear by name in the Inmate Lookup Service, the person still MIGHT:

  • Currently be in a New York City jail under another name.
  • In the past have been in a New York City jail.
  • Currently be facing criminal charges while released from jail on bail or "recognizance" (release without bail).
  • Currently be in jail in a county outside of New York City.

How Do I Find Someone in a Local NY Jail Outside NYC?

Vinelink provides information about people currently in pretrial custody in all counties of New York, not just New York City:

Vinelink

Vinelink provides less information than the NYC Department of Correction Inmate Lookup Service. However, it does provide full date of birth – the City site doesn't.

Vinelink also lets you search for inmates in some states other than New York.

Vinelink doesn't provide information about people in federal custody.

How Do Find Someone in New York State Prison?

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision ("DOCCS") maintains custody of New York State inmates sentenced to a year or more in state prison.

The DOCCS Inmate Population Information Search allows you to find information about current and former state prisoners:

DOCCS Inmate Population Information SearchThe Inmate Population Information Search provides:

  • Full date of birth.
  • Crimes of conviction.
  • Maximum and minimum sentence.
  • Prison location.
  • County where sentence was imposed.

How Do I Find a Person in Federal Custody?

The US Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator provides information about people in federal custody:

BOP Inmate LocatorInformation includes the person's age, prison location, and, for sentenced prisoners, the release date.

How Do I Find a NY Sex Offender?

People convicted of certain sex offenses are required to register with the state. In many cases, their information is published online in the Public Registry of Sex Offenders:

NY Public Registry of Sex OffendersThe website provides detailed personal information, including:

  • Full date of birth.
  • Home address.
  • Photograph of offender.
  • Sex offender designation.
  • Crime of conviction.
  • Sentence imposed.
  • Details of crime.

How Do I Find a Person's Employment Information?

LinkedIn is a great source for finding information about a person's employment and education:

LinkedIn

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Criminal defense lawyer Bruce Yerman has 26 years of experience defending clients charged with crimes in New York City.

For a free consultation, call 212-390-0036, or complete this short form:

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