How to Do a Public Records Search in California

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How to Do a Public Records Search in California

The California Public Records Act (1968) plus the Constitution of California allow the public to access public records in California whenever they need to. These are records that are maintained by state government agencies and third party websites. This article will show you how to do a public records search in California.

California public records go as far way back to the time of the creation of the state in 1850. The records are from around 58 counties. It has become easier to access or find public records in recent times after their digitalization became common. This is the case with both state government agencies as well as third party sites.

There are different types of public records out there. There are vital records (birth, death, marriage, divorce), court records, criminal records to name some. There are also different methods to access such records. Let’s take a look at how one can access these public records in California.

Vital Records Access in California

Most records are public information in California. This means that they can be accessed by anyone who needs them. There are however records that cannot be accessed by everyone. This is dependent on the year the event occurred and type of record in question. Obtaining certified or authorized copies of restricted records is permitted to the person named on the record, their immediate family, legal guardians or authorized individuals.

People who are looking to access vital records in California should be ready to present the following information related to the record.

  • The name of the person on the record.
  • Date the event occurred.
  • Location (county or city) where the event took place.
  • First and last names of parents of the person on the record.

You can obtain California vital records from the California Vital Records State Department of Health. Another source of public records would be the County Clerk’s Office where the event took place.

The Family History Library also has California Statewide Indexes which you can also check out. If you manage to locate an individual on the indexes, you should also consult with the original record to make a confirmation.

To access or obtain a copy of certified vital records, you will need to first complete an application form relevant to the type of record you want and submit it. This however is not necessary if you are looking to obtain an informal copy. Certified copies can be used as legal documents for identification purposes. Informal copies cannot be submitted as form of identification.

Court Records Access in California

When someone opens a case or files a case in court, the case will be kept by the court as a record. Information about that person will then be contained in that court record.

Courts have records on cases that they keep on paper or in electronic format. Court records can be found at the court house where you can ask to take a look at the paper records or the electronic records. It also possible to access court records via the internet if that court offers them there.

We are going to take a look at the electronic type of court records mostly on this article. These are records that can be viewed using an electronic device such as a phone, tablet or computer. This is referred to as remote access. Most court records are made accessible to the public unless the court deem that record as confidential.

Examples of court records that are considered confidential include juvenile dependency, which is whereby a child is removed from parents and child delinquency, whereby a child has committed an offence. Documents such as a fee waiver application are not made available to the public. Even though the public is not allowed access to these records, people who are a party in the records can access them.

People who are party or a party’s legal representative can always access court records remotely if they are available online.

Criminal Records in California

Also referred to as rap sheets, criminal records show the criminal activities of a person in a particular jurisdiction. The Department of Justice is one of the state government agencies that are required by law to offer public records to the public in California. These can be pending dispositions, indictments or arrests. The records are sourced from county law offices, trial and appeal courts and correctional facilities that are run by that particular state.

Criminal records often comprise of the full name of offender, birth date, race, fingerprints, physical description, previous and current indictments and more.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR), state websites, the local county sheriff’s office as well as a number of public records search websites do offer arrest and inmate records. Employers, case subjects and their legal representatives can access criminal records from the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ).

These solutions on how to do a public records search in California can be just what you need to find them. The article discusses a number of them as well as the places that offer them.