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California Criminal History
Records Search

California Employment Background Checks
There are several sources for criminal history information in California. Employers can select several different searches based on their specific requirements.
California County Criminal Records
The criminal court system in California differs from that of other states. Prior to 1998, California’s trial court system was comprised of superior and municipal courts. Each court had its jurisdiction and number of judges defined by the legislature. In 1998 California voters approved a constitutional amendment that permitted counties to combine the superior and municipal courts into a single, combined superior court. By 2001 all of California’s 58 counties had unified their trial courts. Superior courts now have jurisdiction over felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic violations. They also have jurisdiction over civil cases such as family law, probate, juvenile, and other civil matters. Limited Jurisdiction Superior courts (former municipal courts) do not hear felony or juvenile cases.

Since most criminal convictions occur at the county level, County Criminal Record Checks are the heart of any comprehensive California Background Check. Because the more than 50 counties in California do not share records with other counties, we strongly recommend criminal record checks in all counties where applicants have lived, worked, or gone to school.

California counties have differing policies and procedures concerning access to records. Most Superior Courts store records at the county seat while many Limited Jurisdiction Superior courts store their records on premises. An experienced researcher will know the policy in a particular county. Some counties permit researchers to search records directly. Other counties require the court clerks to do the research based on information given to them. This adds an element of uncertainty to the process, increases turnaround times, and may even affect the accuracy of search results.

California State-Wide Criminal Search
There is no single, complete criminal record database for the state of California. The private databases that do exist are a collection of criminal records made available by less than 20 of the county courts in California, and the results of prior criminal record searches. Search results from these private databases are not necessarily reliable or up to date. For more information about the limitations of database searches see Criminal Database Limitations.

A Matter of Fact State-Wide Recommendation - Our California State-Wide Criminal Record Search includes the use of private databases as well as a search of the California Department of Corrections database. The Department of Corrections database contains the records of individuals who has been incarcerated in a California State penitentiary. We verify any records found with a search of the original county court files.

California State-Wide Benefits - A California State-Wide Criminal Record Search is a very useful research tool providing increased due diligence. Individuals are not likely to spend the entirety of their lives just in the counties of work, residence, or school. A State-Wide California Criminal Record Search extends the research beyond obvious jurisdictions, increasing the probability of finding possible convictions. Is it possible an applicant may have committed a crime in a county while traveling or merely visiting?

California Criminal Fingerprint System
The California Department of Justice maintains an automated process for checking the criminal backgrounds of individuals using fingerprint submissions. These checks may be required by certain agencies as a condition of employment or identity confirmation. See California Department of Justice Fingerprint Information.

This service is only available to employers if fingerprints are required by law. This search also cannot be considered to contain all criminal information on an individual, but only that information submitted to the fingerprint file.

LiveScan, the California system for using fingerprints to check criminal records has significant built-in limitations. See, California LiveScan, A Real Background Check?

Individual background check searches (such as a fingerprint search) are pieces to a puzzle. Each piece provides specific information to be used by employers to help determine the qualifications of prospective employees.

California Sex Offender Registry
California provides a searchable centralized Sex Offender Registry. The California Sex Offender Registry is limited as it only provides information about specific types of sex offenses. However, the registry can be very helpful in broadening the scope of the criminal record check to the state level for this type of crime. This is also an important search for potential employees who will be working with children or the elderly, or who may have access to homes or residences.

Federal Courts in California
A Federal Court hears cases for federal crimes committed within that federal district. Federal crimes include crimes in which a federal law has been broken, crimes that cross state boundaries, or crimes committed on federal property. There are four federal districts in California: Northern, Eastern, Central, and Southern. A typical background check would search those federal court districts in which the applicant has lived, worked, or gone to school.

California Motor Vehicle Records
California Motor Vehicle records are not criminal records, but they may provide information about crimes committed by an applicant related to operating a motor vehicle. They can also reveal important information regarding a potential employee’s patterns of behavior and any problems regarding the responsibility of the individual applicant. While some states do not allow access to Motor Vehicle records for employment screening purposes, California does allow access to certain registered parties for legally defined purposes. Access and distribution of this information is restricted. Motor Vehicle records may be obtained for a prospective employer with a proper release and the applicant's name and driver’s license number.

A Matter of Fact only runs Motor Vehicle Reports as part of a complete background check. We do not run Motor Vehicle Reports as stand-alone searches.

Unique California Laws and Regulations
Unique Laws and Regulations Apply to California Criminal History Background Checks. Employers contemplating California criminal background checks should acquaint themselves with the legal requirements imposed by California. See California Background Check Law and FCRA Employer Requirements.

California Employment Background Check Specialists
A Matter of Fact is a California-based background screening company specializing in California Background Checks since 1994. For more information about our California Background Check expertise, see California Employment Background Check Specialists.

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