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California Arrest Records: How to Find Arrest Records in California

California Arrest Records: How to Find Arrest Records in California
September 12, 2022

The bright state of California is not an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act in the United States. California is one of the top states in the US that enforces the right to share information freely and at the same time also considers the privacy of its citizen. 


For instance, the state has a privacy act that allows citizens to prevent the sale of their records, especially from third-party search websites.

Who has access to California Arrest Records?

Arrest records in California are considered public documents, and following the California Public Records Act, they are made available for public viewing. Anybody in California can request arrest records in the state by applying through the relevant law enforcement agencies.

The arrest records give detailed information about subjects alleged to have committed a crime. Asides from the personal details of the arrestee, an arrest record also holds information about the circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention site.

handcuffs on an illustration of the California flag

Certain situations make arrest records unavailable to the public or some information partially concealed. Such situations include:

* If the content of the arrest record can endanger another individual or the arrestee 
* If the content of the arrest record will jeopardize or obstruct an ongoing investigation 
* If the arrestee is a juvenile suspect. In this situation, the arrest record can only be released to the juvenile's parent or authorization by the juvenile court.

How to Find Arrest Records in California?

California allows the subject of an arrest record to have full access to the information contained in the record as well as other members of the public. 


You must apply to the appropriate authorities to access such records in California. The state's primary holder of arrest records is the police department or the local sheriff's office. 

The method of disseminating arrest records in California is not uniform; each agency has a peculiar way of allowing public access to arrest records. 

a gavel on a paper that reads crime history records


For instance, San Diego County Sheriff's Department only allows the public to request arrest records via an online platform. 


In contrast, Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department provides downloadable request forms that can be submitted by mail or physically. As a result, there are peculiarities in how each district handles the dissemination of arrest records.

Despite the disparity in how the arrest records are distributed, they commonly have the exact requirement. 


For example, to complete an arrest record request, a local law enforcement agency often needs identifying information on the arrestee, such as a full name, arrest date, birthdate, and booking number. 

Also, the requester's details are required. These records are also subjected to fee charges for processing the documents, which can be paid through cash, money order, check, and other legitimate means of payment.  


How Long do Arrest Records Remain Public In California?

The laws of California do not specify the typical retention times for arrest records. As a result, law enforcement organizations follow the guidelines of each managerial and legal authority. 


The record retention policy of the organization in charge of the record determines how long a California arrest record remains public. This policy may be based on:

* The occurrence that led to the arrest, such as whether the offense was a felony or a misdemeanor
* If the case has been settled in court or the arrestee has fulfilled the court's judgment.

What is Required to Expunge Arrest Records in California?

California allows for arrest records of individuals to be sealed or permanently destroyed. The most common way of doing this is by filing a petition with the court. This is following State penal code under Sections 851.8 and 851.91. 



The code allows for adults who were arrested in the state to file a petition based on the following conditions:

* The arrest did not lead to a criminal charge
* A criminal charge on the subject was dismissed
* The subject was acquitted during the trial

Can You Correct Errors in Arrest Records?

If an inaccuracy is observed in your arrest record, you should file a complaint with the law enforcement agency that generated the record. If a criminal history report reveals the disparity, you should formally contest it with the California Department of Justice (CDOJ). 


The form Claim of Alleged Inaccuracy or Incompleteness must be filled out and sent, together with the erroneous record and any necessary supporting documentation, to the postal address shown on the form. 


The petitioner may ask for a CDOJ administrative hearing if the claim is rejected.


Arrest records are made public in California, although the process of disseminating the report is peculiar to each law enforcement agency. While some provide an electronic means of accessing the report, some require physical presence to obtain the records. 

The state also allows people who were wrongly arrested, have a dismissed criminal charge, or have served their jail time to seal their records and prevent them from being publicly available.

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