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California Public Records

How to request California Public Records​?

The easiest way to access a public record is to contact the state or municipal agency in charge directly. Access can also be obtained through private sources if the records are available to the public.

Table of Contents

To request California public records, follow the steps below:

Where to find Public Records in California

Depending on the type of record you are looking for, there are several options for where you can find public records in California. Here are a few examples:

Vital Records (Birth, Death, Marriage, Divorce):

Department of Public Health website is the primary source for requesting vital records. You can request these records online, by mail, or in person at the local County Recorder’s Office. Website.

Property Records:

You can typically find these at the County Recorder's Office in the county where the property is located. Some counties provide online access to these records.

Business Records:

The California Secretary of State website is the place to go for this. They offer online business searches where you can look up entities registered in the state. Website.

Court Records:

You can find court records on the Superior Court website for the respective county where the case was filed. Note that each county may have different regulations and online systems.

Driving Records:

Driving records are maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You can request them online, by mail, or in person. Website.

Professional Licenses

You can verify the license of a professional in California via the Department of Consumer Affairs website. Website.

California State Archives:

For older, historical records, you can search the California State Archives. Website.

Are California Public Records Available Online?

Yes. California public records can be accessed online. You have the right to access public information held by local and state government agencies under the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

Many government departments have online portals or databases where you can search and access several types of public records. Depending on the agency and the type of information sought, the availability of certain records online may vary.

State Public Records Law

The California Public Records Act (CPRA) governs the public’s access to state public records in California. With a few exceptions and limitations, the CPRA attempts to promote openness and hold government bodies accountable by allowing individuals the right to access public records. Here are key aspects of the California Public Records Act:

Which records are public in California

Which records are not public in California

While many records in California are accessible to the public, certain records are not available for public access due to privacy concerns or legal restrictions. Here are some examples of records that are generally not public in California:

California Background Checks

In California, background checks are conducted to gather details about an individual’s history, helping to assess their suitability for various purposes such as employment, tenancy, or partnerships. Background checks encompass a wide range of inquiries tailored to specific needs. Common types of background checks in California include criminal background checks, employment history verification, educational and credential verification, credit checks, reference checks, and more. The scope and depth of the investigation vary depending on the nature of the inquiry.

California has stringent laws and regulations governing background checks to safeguard individual privacy rights. These include the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which outline guidelines on the collection, use, and dissemination of personal information during the background check process.

Conducting background checks in California requires adherence to legal and ethical standards. It is essential to obtain proper consent from individuals being screened, ensure data security and confidentiality, and provide individuals with the opportunity to review and dispute any inaccurate information found in their background reports.

What Can Be Included In a Background Check Report?

Criminal Records

this section should consist of any infractions of the law including both state and federal level convictions, any jail time, sex offenses, traffic violations, and a mention if they are listed on the national watch list for possible terrorism.

Social Security/Citizenship Verification

You will want to be sure to verify a potential candidate’s social security number, any aliases they might have and that they are indeed a legal, U.S. citizen.

Sex Offender Registry

Sex offenders are legally required to register in the area where they live.

Terrorism Watch List

Since 9/11, the government now keeps a list of people with known or suspected ties to terrorism. This information will also be on the report.

Driving Records

Depending on what your employee will be doing, sometimes it is essential to know that they have a clean driving record. If they will be driving as part of their job, it becomes critical to validate whether they have too many DUIs or reckless driving past.

Education Transcripts

Everyone lies on applications and resumes, so a simple verification of school transcripts provide the real story as to grade average and degrees earned.

Credit Report

A simple credit report to show how they handle their finances. Background checks are being used by 70% of American employers during the hiring process to ensure the safety of staff and customers. These days companies cannot be too careful and armed with this information, they can make better, more informed choices on who to hire.

California Court Records

Overview of the California court system and its Structure

The California court system is a complex structure comprising various levels and types of courts that handle different types of cases. Here is an overview of the California court system:

  • Supreme Court of California reviews appeals from lower courts and has the authority to interpret state laws and the California Constitution.
  • Courts of Appeal: California has six appellate districts, each with its own Court of Appeal. These intermediate appellate courts hear appeals from the trial courts in their respective districts.
  • Superior Courts: The Superior Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction in California.
  • Specialty Courts: California also has specialty courts that focus on specific types of cases or populations. These include family courts, probate courts, juvenile courts, drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans courts.
  • Limited Jurisdiction Courts: Limited jurisdiction courts handle less complex cases with lower monetary limits or specific subject matter. These courts include small claims courts, traffic courts, municipal courts (in some counties), and various administrative tribunals.

Each court within the California court system operates under its own set of rules and procedures while adhering to state laws and regulations. The primary goal of the California court system is to provide fair and efficient resolution of legal disputes, ensure access to justice, and uphold the principles of due process and the rule of law.

Types of California Court Records

Civil Court Records​

Criminal Court

Family Court Records​

Probate Court Records​

Traffic Court Records​

Restrictions, Limitations, and Confidentiality

California court records have specific restrictions and confidentiality measures in place to safeguard sensitive information and ensure privacy.

Sealed records, which contain confidential or sensitive details, are inaccessible to the public unless a compelling reason or court order is granted for their unsealing. Juvenile court records are treated as confidential to protect the privacy of minors involved, with limited access granted to authorized individuals and relevant government agencies. Mental health and probate records may also be subject to restrictions, ensuring privacy and requiring a court order for access. Courts take steps to protect confidential information within records by redacting sensitive personal data. Certain records containing trade secrets, proprietary information, or sensitive data may be restricted from public access, with courts having the authority to limit or redact specific portions to prevent harm or misuse.

In California, court records are managed at the county level by each of the 58 counties’ Superior Courts, operating within the framework of state laws and guidelines.

What do these records contain

California Public Vital Records

Marriage and divorce records: Marriage records are typically handled by the county Clerk-Recorder’s Office where the marriage took place, while divorce records are processed by the Superior Court in the county where the divorce was granted.

Birth and Death Records: The California Department of Public Health – Vital Records (CDPH-VR) is the main repository of all public vital records in the state, like birth, death, and stillbirth records.

Copies of public vital records in California can either be authorized or informational.

Authorized public vital records are those requested by the person named on the documents, next of kin, or any other legal representative like an attorney or a representative of another government agency requiring the vital records.

Informational public vital records are given when you cannot obtain an authorized vital record under California law. If this happens, the CDPH can provide you with a copy of the vital record you need containing the same information, but with an annotation saying that it’s not a valid document but for informational purposes only.

You may request vital records in California online. It would be best if you also took note of the following fees for each record request:

Birth certificates $29.00
Marriage certificates $17.00
Divorce certificates $16.00
Death certificates $24.00
Fetal death certificates $21.00
Stillbirth certificates $28.00

California Public Criminal Records

Definition and types of criminal records in California

Criminal records in California refer to official documents and records that document an individual’s involvement in criminal activities within the state. They provide a comprehensive record of an individual’s interactions with the criminal justice system. California criminal records can include various types of records, such as arrest records, court case records, conviction records, sentencing details, and probation or parole information.

Information contained in criminal records

California criminal records typically contain the following information:

  • Personal Identification Details: Criminal records include personal information about the individual, such as their full name, aliases or nicknames, date of birth, and sometimes their address.
  • Arrest Records and Charges: These records provide details of the arrest, including the date, location, arresting agency, and the specific charges brought against the individual.
  • Court Case Information and Outcomes: This section of the record contains information about the court proceedings related to the case, including the court’s name, case number, case status, and important dates such as arraignment, pretrial hearings, and trial outcomes.
  • Convictions and Sentencing Details: If the individual has been found guilty, the record will indicate the conviction(s) and the specific charges for which they were convicted. It may include information about the sentencing, such as fines, probation, community service, or imprisonment.
  • Probation or Parole Status: If the individual is currently on probation or parole, the record may include details about the terms and conditions of their supervision.

Police Records and Reports

Public access to police reports is restricted, but the California Public Records Act (CPRA) mandates the release of certain information upon request. This includes the arrestee's name, filed charges, and factual descriptions of the incident, such as the crime, presence of weapons, injuries, and property damage. Contact the arresting agency to request police reports, as a comprehensive list of California police agencies is maintained by the State of California Law Enforcement Agencies. Some details, like victim information and potential risks to the public or the agency, are not disclosed. Accessing police records may require a formal Freedom of Information Act request.

Booking Records and Reports

Booking records, also known as arrest records or booking logs, are created when someone is taken into custody. These records contain the person's name, arrest date and time, charges, and relevant details. Generally, booking records are public and can be accessed through law enforcement agencies or online portals, depending on the jurisdiction.

DUI Records

Certain driver's license information is prohibited from public release under federal law, including sensitive details like home addresses. In California, driving under the influence (DUI) is a crime, and even a "wet and reckless" arrest below the DUI threshold is charged and prosecuted. Arrest and conviction records for DUI are publicly available and can be accessed easily. For information on incarcerated individuals, search the relevant county jail inmate population. County court records can provide details on DUI convictions in California. Note that if no charges or convictions occurred, there won't be a public record, but official background checks may include such information.

Felony and Misdemeanor Records

In California, finding felony and misdemeanor conviction records is relatively straightforward. County Superior Courts maintain records of court proceedings for felony convictions. To access these records, search the court files in the respective county. If the person is currently incarcerated, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) website allows searching for arrest, booking, and charge details. For misdemeanor records, search the county court where the case was heard. If the individual is in jail, use the CDCR website for information on the charges. Availability of records may vary based on the jurisdiction and case specifics.

Parole Records

To obtain parole records, contact the County Superior Court that handled the conviction. Request the documents in person or by mail, providing the person's name, date of birth, CDCR number, and specific information sought. Case history searches at the County Superior Court might provide some information, but detailed criminal history may not be available. Parole records document the supervision and conditions of individuals released on parole from prison. They include details about parole terms, interactions with parole officers, and progress reports. Access to parole records depends on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances of the case.

Probation Records

California probation records can be requested from the California Probate Division of the relevant County Superior Court. Searching for probate records must be done in person as they are not available online. Provide the full name, date of birth, CDCR number, and specific details needed. Copying the records incurs a fee of $0.50 per page. Probation records pertain to individuals sentenced to probation instead of incarceration. They contain information about probation conditions, reports from probation officers, and updates on compliance with the terms. The availability of probation records depends on the jurisdiction and the nature of the case.

Warrant Search

Active warrants are not public information under California state law. The law restricts the type of information provided to the public, and warrants have been deemed to compromise the individual’s right to privacy of information. Executed warrants will lead to a booking or arrest record that will be identifiable through the CDCR website or by contacting the local arresting agency or county jail.

Inmate And Jail Records

Inmate search refers to the process of searching for and obtaining information about individuals who are currently incarcerated within California's correctional facilities. The primary purpose of inmate search is to provide access to public information about inmates, including their location, booking details, charges, sentence length, release dates, and parole eligibility status.

What you can find

When searching for an inmate in California, you can expect to find the following information:

  • Inmate Location and Facility Details: Inmate search provides information about the specific correctional facility where the inmate is currently housed. This includes the facility’s name, address, and contact information.
  • Booking Information and Charges: Inmate search allows you to access details about the inmate’s initial booking into the facility, including the date of booking, booking number, and the specific charges brought against them.
  • Sentence Length and Release Dates: Inmate search provides information about the length of the inmate’s sentence, including the start date and the anticipated release date. This helps in understanding the duration of their incarceration.
  • Parole Eligibility and Parole Board Decisions: Inmate search may indicate the inmate’s eligibility for parole and provide information on parole board decisions, such as the outcome of parole hearings and any conditions imposed.

How to do an Inmate Search in California

In California, you can use the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Inmate Locator to find information about inmates. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Go to the CDCR’s Inmate Locator Website: You can visit the CDCR’s inmate locator at this URL: https://inmatelocator.cdcr.ca.gov/.
  • Enter the Inmate’s Information: The locator requires either the inmate’s CDCR number or the inmate’s last name and first initial. Fill in the information you have.
  • Submit the Search: Once you’ve entered the necessary information, click on the “Search” button to submit your request.
  • Review the Information: If the inmate is in the system, you will see their CDCR number, their age, their admission date, their current location, and their parole-eligible month and year.

Can I look up mugshots in California?

Under the California Public Records Act (CPRA), residents have the right to access public records, such as arrest records and mugshots. Mugshots of arrested individuals can be found on government websites like the California state archives or the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation site. These sites provide both current and historical arrest records. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) maintains an updated database of juvenile and adult criminals. Online directories of California jails also offer mugshots of inmates in custody.

California Arrest Records

California arrest records refer to official documents and records that document an individual’s arrest by law enforcement authorities within the state. These records provide information about the circumstances, charges, and outcomes of an arrest. The primary purpose of arrest records is to create a comprehensive record of an individual’s involvement with the criminal justice system and to ensure transparency and accountability in law enforcement activities.

What Do These Records Contain:

California arrest records typically contain the following information:

  • Personal Identification Details: Arrest records include personal information about the individual, such as their full name, aliases or nicknames, date of birth, and sometimes their address.

  • Arrest Information: These records provide details of the arrest, including the date, time, and location of the arrest, the arresting agency or police department, the name of the arresting officer, and the charges brought against the individual.

  • Booking Information: Arrest records may include details about the booking process, such as fingerprints, photographs (mugshots), and personal identifying information collected during the booking procedure.

  • Charges and Criminal Offenses: Arrest records outline the specific charges or criminal offenses for which the individual was arrested. This includes the nature of the offense and any applicable penal code sections or statutes.

  • Court Case Information: Depending on the stage of the criminal proceedings, arrest records may provide limited information about the subsequent court case, including the court’s name, case number, and other relevant case details.

California Property and Asset Records Online

In California, the State Controller’s Office has information on property and assets available in the state. The organization provides a free internet search tool for finding and claiming properties. The registry of deed offices, which is also structured on a county level, oversees property records.

Unclaimed Properties in California

Searching for your unclaimed money is very easy in California. You’ll need to include information like name and address when searching.

This implies that if you’ve done business in other states, you may search a single database to see if you have any unclaimed funds around the country.

Driving Records

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in California has an online service that allows you to print your own driving records upon making a request.

In order to access your driving records, you must first register for an account on the agency’s online platform, pay a fee of $2.00, and ensure that your printer is connected and prepared to print the records. If you require an official hard copy of your driving record, you will need to complete a request form and send it via mail to the DMV.

You may also request another person’s driving records information for $5 per automated record. A higher fee of $20.00 is required for any photocopy of microfilm or hardcopy documents.

Civil Driving Infractions

Civil driving violations are considered minor misdemeanors in California. Driving offenses include a fine of more than $200, plus community service.

Some common examples of civil driving infractions in California are:

  • Speeding
  • Running a red light
  • Tailgating
  • Unsafe lane changing
  • Not wearing a seatbelt

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) is considered a misdemeanor case. Offenses like this are punishable by up to a year in jail and paying a fine of $1,000.00.

California White Pages - Find People, Addresses and Other non Official Information

Address Search ​

A Reverse Address Lookup in California, alternatively termed a Reverse Address Search, constitutes a consultable database designed to assist individuals in acquiring information about property ownership within the state. This proves valuable for uncovering details about a property’s owner or in efforts to discover someone’s address.

Multiple resources offer this service, yet the most encompassing and current database is provided by the California Association of Realtors (CAR) through their online Property Owner Lookup tool. Users can employ this tool to search for a property owner by their surname, address, or parcel number. It’s important to note, though, that access to this database is exclusive to CAR members.

Public members can conduct an address lookup in California, given they either possess permission from the individual in question or have a legitimate purpose for seeking the information. The California Public Records Act stipulates that addresses are categorized as public information, hence accessible to anyone. However, certain restrictions are in place regarding the usage and disclosure of this data.

However, certain restrictions are in place regarding the usage and disclosure of this data.

People Search​

In California, conducting a people search can be a useful way to gather information about individuals. Various online resources and databases are available to assist in such searches. One option is to utilize public records websites that provide access to a wide range of information, including basic details like full name, address, and phone number.

Can I Search By a Phone Number and Identify The Owner?

Yes, identifying who owns a specific phone number can be achieved using reverse phone lookup services. These services correlate and provide information connected to phone numbers, including names, addresses, contact details, and occasionally alias photographs, and social media profiles. Multiple methods exist for executing a reverse phone number lookup, such as searching by address, name, or other associated details.

How to Do a License Plate Lookup in California

California, as in most states, does not allow the public to request information about a driver based on a license plate number except in limited situations.

If you are the victim of a crime and only know the license plate number of the vehicle, local law enforcement can run a license plate lookup to identify the registered owner. This may help police catch the perpetrator of a crime, but the information obtained is not made available to the victim or the public.

You can use third-party software online to conduct a vehicle history report based on a license plate number. In the United States, all vehicles have a registered plate tied to a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Online lookups using the license plate number will provide specific information about the car but will not include information about the registered owner. You will be able to find information about safety recalls significant repairs, dates of sale including price, and information about the locations the vehicle was registered and sold in.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who and why can request public records?

Public records are broadly accessible to every member of the community. This includes individuals, groups, journalists, businesses, and researchers alike. The purpose of permitting requests for public records is to promote transparency and responsibility in government activities. It allows citizens to gain insights into the functions and decisions of governmental entities.

Are there fees associated with requesting public records?

Yes, acquiring public records may involve some costs. It’s common for governmental bodies to levy moderate charges to compensate for the expenses incurred in duplicating, digitizing, and assembling the desired documents. The actual charges can differ based on the jurisdiction and the specifics of the request. In some cases, these charges may be waived or lessened for specific types of requesters, including media representatives or non-profit groups.

Are public records Free to access?

In some cases, certain public records may be available for free. Some government agencies proactively publish certain records online and make them accessible to the public at no cost. However, if you require specific records that are not readily available, you may need to submit a formal public records request, which may incur fees.

What is the response time for public records requests?

The time required to handle a public records request can vary based on the jurisdiction and the complexity of the request. Laws and regulations often mandate government bodies to provide a response within a specified period, which could be anywhere from several days to multiple weeks. However, certain requests may necessitate a longer processing time, especially if they encompass a significant number of records or need alterations to protect confidential data.

Can my request be rejected?

Yes, a public records request can be rejected under certain circumstances. Government agencies may reject a request if the records fall under specific exemptions or are legally protected from disclosure. Common reasons for rejection include the protection of personal privacy, ongoing investigations, national security concerns, attorney-client privilege, and trade secrets.
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