This study describes how many detainees have been referred to emergency departments for further evaluation or emergency care while in police custody in Amsterdam (years 2012/2013). It provides insights into the diagnoses assigned by forensic doctors and hospital specialists and the appropriateness of the referrals. We made use of the electronic registration system of the Forensic Medicine Department of the Public Health Service Amsterdam. This department is in charge of the medical care for detainees in the Amsterdam region. Hospital diagnoses were obtained through collaboration with several Amsterdam-based hospitals. According to our results, in 1.5% of all consultations performed, the detainee was referred to hospital. The most frequent reasons for referral were injuries (66%), intoxication/withdrawal (11%) and cardiac problems (7%). In 18% of all referrals, hospital admission (defined as at least one night in the hospital) was the consequence. After review of hospital files, the indication for referral as stated by the forensic physician was confirmed in 77% of all cases. A minority of referrals was considered unnecessary (7%). The identified cases allow for a discussion of cases of over-referral. Future research should focus on the problem of under-referral and associated health risks.