California Background Checks & Public Records

Run A Background Search

A background check, in general, is the process of verifying a person’s identity and background starting with their basic information. It also includes a closer look at a person’s criminal records, civil records and judgments, social media information, and any other detail you want to know. There are of course certain limitations and law restrictions depending on the state. 

Public records and background checks intertwine basically because most information for compiled in background checks is from public records. Any information that directly relates to public business is considered a public record. Also, if such information has been prepared, utilized, stored, or owned by any local or state agency then it is a public record. Public records in California are very much available to the public, a person only needs to contact the appropriate department or office. Well, of course, as with other states, there are exceptions to the openness of California’s public records. 

Counties In California

AlamedaLakePlacerShasta
AmadorLassenRiversideSiskiyou
ButteLos AngelesSacramentoSolano
ColusaMaderaSan BenitoSonoma
Contra CostaMarinSan BernardinoStanislaus
Del NorteMariposaSan DiegoSutter
El DoradoMendocinoSan FranciscoTehama
FresnoMercedSan JoaquinTulare
GlennModocSan Luis ObispoTuolumne
HumboldtMonoSan MateoVentura
ImperialMontereySan MateoYolo
InyoNapaSanta BarbaraYuba
KernNevadaSanta Clara
KingsOrangeSanta Cruz

Where To Get Public Records In California 

A background check usually goes deeper than a person’s basic information. The California Department of Public Health is where you could go for vital records. They can process your requests for birth and death records, marriage, and divorce records from 1905 to present. Records on fetal death and stillborn death are also available. 

Background Checks, particularly for employment purposes, usually focus on a person’s criminal records. The California Department of Justice processes requests on a person’s criminal records or any fingerprint-based background checks. Records acquired through this department may include:

  • Criminal records
  • Federal criminal records 
  • Jail and Inmate Records

California criminal checks show crimes, including convictions, for the last seven years. It is important to note that employers from specific fields such as elderly care and finance are allowed to check crimes that go further than the last seven years. 

California Court Records are also available through the Judicial Council of California except for any records that pertain to cases filed in the Superior Court System of California. There are, however, instances that requests may be denied.

Accessing & Acquiring Public Records In California

Various websites store and provide public records with minimal to no service fees. Such companies acquire information like vital, credit, or criminal records from the authorized sources, and in the same way, they undergo the process as mandated by California laws and regulations. Basically, they collate these details into one major database which they use to back-up or run their background check websites. Hence, these search web pages are one of the easiest and fastest ways to access and acquire public records.

The other way to do it is to go directly to the sources. It is actually a statutory right to access and inspect public records as stated under California Public Records Act (CPRA). Even if you are not from California or your company is not based in the state, you may request public records of its residents without the need of explaining your purpose or intent. However, an exception to this is the current home address or contact details of someone who is a victim of a crime or someone who has been arrested. In this scenario, one would need to provide clear purposes which should be either of these: journalistic or scholarly purposes, and political or governmental purposes. Moreover, it must be clearly stated the reason for the request that such information will not be sold. 

Birth certificates, marriage licenses or certificates, and death certificates can be requested from the California Department of Public Health. You may go directly to any of their satellite offices, or you may visit their website to send requests of vital records.

Should you need records of criminal histories or any documents related to specific cases filed to California Superior Court, you can send requests to them directly.

If you are an employer needing access to any records of an applicant who is a legal resident of California as part of your pre-employment or hiring process, be mindful of these laws on background checking.

  1. Unless the applicant is pending trial or the case resulted in a conviction, the California Labor Code states that an employer cannot acquire access to any information pertaining to an arrest or detention. Aside from arrests that did not lead, and sealed, expunged or dismissed criminal records should not and cannot be used against the applicant during the hiring process. Such information has no value or weight.
  2. For the criminal records screening, an employer is only permitted to acquire and use convictions within the past seven years.
  3. Prior to performing any background checks on an applicant, the employer must seek his/her consent first. 
  4. California State law requires that an applicant should be informed of the background check results.

California Background Check Reports

Unless you are requesting criminal history records or specific case documents, you do not need to explain your intentions of acquiring someone’s credit history records, vital records, or any public records. In fact, if you want to, you may even background check yourself and no one will even question or raise an eyebrow.

One of the most common reasons for public records requests is employment.The California Department of Justice has received a drastic increase in background check requests the past few years since interest in the laws allowing and governing access to these records has increased. Background checks on job applicants’ financial, commercial, and criminal records have become an effective and efficient pre-employment screening process. Depending on how tedious and thorough employers conduct their checks, the chances of violence, scandals, and fraud are greatly lessened.

Some entrepreneurs also check on their potential clients or investors before signing any partnership contracts or closing any deals. This is specifically true for those business owners who are cautious and serious in maintaining their personal and their brand’s reputation. 

Though not openly popular, some also request information about their life partners before they commit to marriage. Aside from acquiring documents needed for a marriage license or certificate application, some people conduct background checks on their boyfriend or girlfriend just to ensure they are fully aware of their past.  

While California law does not allow employers (except certain financial institutions) to review someone’s consumer report regarding a person’s credit standing, it is essential that you maintain a good credit standing as it reflects on your financial decisions and personal character. It is also important to have an idea of any information that could come up during a background check on you especially since public records are fairly accessible to employers, or anyone.

California State Official Websites

Frequently Asked Questions About California Background Checks

What shows up on a California background check?

The information that appears on a background check in California depends on who is conducting the check and why it’s being done. For job applicants, one’s criminal, financial, and vital records will likely appear. For any check, only a person’s criminal history for the last seven years is viewable. 

What is the California 7 year rule?

The state of California follows the FCRA’s seven-year rule for criminal history. When conducting a background check in California, anyone, including employers, can only view a person’s criminal history within the last seven years. The only exception to this is if an employer is legally allowed to look further into an applicant’s criminal history.

Should I have to pay for my own background check in California?

A person is allowed to request a background check and records about their criminal history. However, several requirements must be met including:

  • Pay a $25 processing fee to the Department of Justice. This only applies if you do not qualify for their fee waiver. 
  • Submit fingerprint images.

When can an employer run a background check in California?

A business has the right to run a California criminal history background check on employees and job applicants. However, employers can only view someone’s criminal history within the past seven years. 

How do I get a criminal background check in California?

It is very easy to request a criminal background check in California. You may need to pay a $25 processing fee and will need to provide fingerprint images. To do this, follow the instruction on the State of California Department of Justice site.  

How long does a criminal record stay on file in California?

Someone’s criminal records including convictions will always stay on file. However, only the last seven years are viewable when conducting a criminal background check on a person. Arrests that did not result in convictions are not disclosed.