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California Public Records Laws

Accessing and inspecting public records is deemed a statutory right in California’s Public Records Act (CPRA). Any individual, partnership, corporation or limited liability company, either within California or not, can request access to public records without any explanation of intent. The governmental bodies covered by this law range from state offices, departments and divisions to school districts, municipal corporations and government officials.

Information is considered public record if it directly relates to the conduct of the public’s business and has been prepared, utilized, stored or owned by any local or state agency. In addition, the medium in which the information was stored does not have any bearing over its status as a public record. However, an agency may refuse access to their records if they believe that withholding the information will serve the public in a greater capacity than allowing it to be seen.

There is a specific exception to the openness of California’s public records law, which states that if the address of someone who has been arrested or has been a victim of a crime is being requested, then there must be an explanation as to what purpose the records will serve if released. In order for the request to be granted, the records must be used for scholarly, journalistic, political or governmental purposes, and it must also be declared that the information will not be used in order to sell a service or product.

For further information regarding the release and accessibility of California public records, examine the complete text of the California Public Records Act.

California Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks

California criminal records are available through multiple law enforcement controlled databases. The records within these databases may offer public criminal records, police records and Federal criminal records.

The California Department of Justice is responsible for processing fingerprint-based background checks. In the past few years, the number of requests for background checks going through the California Department of Justice has increased drastically since many employers have discovered they can be requested for hiring purposes.

California Jail and Inmate Records

Jail, incarceration, prison, and inmate records are found in the same law enforcement run databases as California’s other criminal records. They are also available for search in the same name-based fashion.

More information regarding California’s jail and inmate records can be found within California’s Victim Notification Service (VINE) Profile.

California Court Records

California court records for the state and local level are made available for public inspection by the Judicial Council of California. Any public court record can be requested for viewing, however in some cases requests will be denied. These cases include any instance wherein a record is deemed exempt from public disclosure.

The judicial council does not, however, maintain any records, criminal histories or documents that are related to specific cases that have been filed in the Superior Court system of California. In order to gain access to these documents, individuals interested in seeking out these documents should send their request to the California Superior Court directly.

Request forms for California Court Records can be accessed on the California Courts section of the California Government website. Once completed, these request forms should be delivered to the Public Access to Records Project by mail, fax or email.

California Vital Records

The California Department of Public Health processes requests for birth, death, marriage and divorce records. Birth and death records are on file from 1905 to present day. In addition to birth and death records, fetal death and stillborn death records are also available from the California Department of Public Health.

Requests for these records can be made on the California Department of Public Health website.

If you need an employment background check in California, certain issues may arise. Read on for more info:
An employment background check is something an employer can use to learn more information about a possible new hire. Employment background checks are a form of screening that companies use to gather information regarding financial, criminal, and commercial records during the hiring process. Background checks can be used to help employers prevent work place violence, falsified credentials, and embezzlement. Those who are seeking employment in California must be aware that may have to undergo an in depth screening before they can be fully offered certain positions.

General Requirements for California Background Checks

In every state around the country there are specific requirements an applicant must meet when being considered for an employment position. Many states have requirements that can make the job hunt every more strenuous. Similar to their easygoing residents, California’s legislation has enforced a few more relaxed rules when conducting background checks. For example, in the state of California, an employer cannot seek information on an arrest unless it resulted in a conviction or the applicant is pending trial.

Also, an employer has limitations for the information that is usable. In California companies are only permitted to use convictions within the past seven years when conducting an employment screening. This allows for applicants with minor charges or out of date convictions to be considered with much less bias.


Most importantly employers must keep in mind that potential candidates must first give written consent for employers to run a background check. They must also share the results with the candidate and notify them if they do not receive the job based on the information in the report.

Special Requirements

Although a criminal check can seem intimidating to many applicants, it can be an extremely helpful tool in the hiring process. Employment screenings are especially accommodating when the position is dealing with vulnerable citizenry such as the elderly, young children and dependent adults. Applicants who are looking for work in fields such as healthcare, education, or government will be required to submit to some form of screening. Positions in the healthcare industry require a lot of consideration because those in healthcare facilities are reliant upon honest and trustworthy staff members.

For example, an employer at a healthcare facility could only conduct a screening for driving records if the job is for a driving position. Also applicants for positions in the healthcare industry can only be questioned by employers about sex related arrests if they will be working with patients. Similar laws are in place for potential employees who have access to medications; employers can question the candidate if they have a history of drug related arrest.

Employers in healthcare facilities are allowed to have access to certain records to ensure that their employees are well-equipped to fulfill their duties efficiently. The state of California is also up to date with the latest form of employment screening, fingerprint analysis. Fingerprint based background screenings are known to be the most comprehensive method of pre-employment screening.

The California Health and Safety Code require that all applicants, licensees, and volunteers must submit to a fingerprint screening during the employment process. Fingerprint analysis is one of the most widely used methods for pre-employment screening because fingerprints cannot be forged.

What shows up on a background check?

Californian employers in certain industries are fully permitted to perform background screening on prospective candidates. Although it is legal to conduct background checks, employers must receive consent before performing any screening and employers are also required to inform the candidate of the results. There are other restrictions that have been placed on criminal checks in the state of California.

California Employment Screening Limitations

There are limitations as to what can be shown on an employment background check. Under the California Labor Code any arrest or detention that did not result in conviction or criminal records that have been sealed, expunged, or dismissed is not usable information during the hiring process. Sealed criminal records are ones that are not accessible by anyone without a court order. Expunging criminal records refers to the process of “cleaning up” a background check.  If a potential candidate has a criminal past and their records fall under the previous categories, that information will not appear on a background check.

Employers however, can ask questions about any conviction and any pending arrests that are shown. The state of California does not differentiate between misdemeanors and felonies, both are displayed on an employment screening. Unfortunately, some mistakes that were made in the past can be shown on California background checks. For example, if an applicant has offenses that occurred when they were a Juvenile, that information is legally usable by employers during the hiring process.

California criminal checks only show crimes that go back 7 years prior and this includes convictions. However, if an applicant is seeking a position in the law enforcement, elderly care, and finance fields their potential employer has the right to check crimes that go back further than 7 years. These specific regulations are vital because they allow the hiring process to remain fair yet very selective.

Credit Reports in California

One of methods many companies use when screening for potential candidates is to run credit reports and learn more about the applicant’s financial history. Credit reports can be very useful because they display one’s financial and personal decisions. Credit reports provide employers with a plethora of information including an applicant’s full name, birthplace, social security number, and employment history. Often time’s companies can be discriminatory against applicants with poor credit history because they feel as if it can indicate irresponsibility and potential embezzlement activity. This can be troublesome for individuals who have landed in unfortunate financial situation such as an unexpected automotive accident, divorce, or medical bills. Fortunately in CA. an employer cannot review consumer credit reports for the purpose of employment with the exception of certain financial institutions. A company in California can only review consumer credit reports on those applying for managerial, Department of Justice, and law enforcement positions. Applicants in this field are carefully selected mainly because they have access to monetary fund’s thus requiring a candidate who can be trusted.

It is so important that prospective hires are aware of the requirements they must meet when seeking employment in California. The state has set specific criteria for their employees as they wish to create a healthy, trusting, productive work environment. Failure to meet a company’s employment guidelines could result in a missed job opportunity, so employees should always be qualified, prepared, and knowledgeable when applying for any position.


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