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California Public Records: How to Perform a California Public Records Search

California Public Records: How to Perform a California Public Records Search
October 3, 2022

The California Public Records Act (CPRA) provides that citizens of the state be afforded the right to view and collect copies of its public records. 


These public records contain varying types of information, depending on which one they are. 


They are mostly held by government agencies and access to a few of them may be restricted to a particular set of people. 


This article discusses all these factors while chiefly describing the process that is involved in finding some of the most common public records in California.


How to Find Public Records in California?


If you want to perform a California public records search, you can use several methods to do so: the first one is to contact and request the files with the proper authorities. 


This method is useful when you need to find one type of record. 

a stack of paper files


However, if you want to run a complete background check on someone, this method can take a while; you will need to contact each authority and request the California public records that you want to find with each and every one of them. 


If you want to perform a complete public records California search, an online directory is the way to do it. 


You can perform a California free public records search with online resources, such as These websites aggregate records and provide a complete public record history in every state, in one place.

Court Records in California Explained

California's judicial system has the peculiar advantage of being a digitally managed system, with electronic means of case filing ranking at the top of the bracket. 


You can find court records online at most of the courthouses in California, with a piece of case information or a case access portal opening to display a vast stock of court records.


However, certain restrictions may apply regarding access to the court records in question. 


They often range from the persons authorized to view the records and the sealing of a select few, such as those bordering on juveniles, sex crimes, etc. 


Other than that, you can access your California public records (court records) by running a search against your name, birth date, and/or case number in online search portals provided at the websites of the affected court.

handcuffs and a gavel on a book

Public Records California: Criminal Records in California Explained

Criminal records are California public records, that are maintained by government agencies, especially law enforcement agencies. 


It mostly features the arrest information, indictments, dispositions, and sentencing information of the record-holder, among other things.


The CA DOJ's official website allows people to run a criminal background check on themselves through its in-house search portal. 


It is sometimes available as a website link that is accessible from a variety of platforms—from law enforcement to third-party platforms. 


Most checks are set into motion when you run searches against your name or fingerprint, with the results displayed only after you've paid the $25 processing fee. 

Public Records California: California Vital Records Explained

Birth records, death records, marriage records, and divorce records are collectively referred to as vital records in the US. 


These vital records are broadly classified as public records, although they are not always easily accessible to the general public.

shelves filled with folders


In most cases, only family members and legal representatives of the record holder, and persons authorized by a decree or a state law are allowed to view these records. 


Below is a description of the steps you can take to find these vital records in California, starting with the first on our list—birth records. 

Public Records California: Birth & Death Records

The birth record of a person often has their birth certificate as its most important content. 


California birth records document the place and date of birth of a person, as well as their identification details as of the time when the record was documented. 


If you ever need to find birth records in California, you can reach out to the California Department of Public Health to lodge your request.


You'd be required to provide sufficient identification and to pay the service fee. 


As soon as receipt of payment is acknowledged and your provided ID ratified, you can start looking forward to receiving a certified copy of your birth record. 


You may also need to provide a notarized statement in your application packet for a certified birth record. However, you should be sorted out as soon as possible.


As with birth records, the CDPH is responsible for the issuance of death records, for a cost of $21 per copy. 


This payment must be included in the mail-in application document, with its processing taking an average of five to seven weeks to complete. 


Note that the scope of the Vital Records division of the CPDH, the CODH-VR, is restricted to mail and walk-in requests. 


Therefore, you may have to resort to independently run websites to find online death records. 

certificate of live birth

Public Records California: Marriage & Divorce Records

A typical Marriage record will contain the parties to the marriage, the date, and place where the marriage was conducted as well as other legal information. 


Marriage records are of two types in California—public marriage records and confidential marriage records. 


The latter is, as the name implies, a document with access to it limited to persons named on the record, while the reverse is the case with public access marriage records. So, not all marriage and divorce records are public records in California.


Marriage records pre-dating 1905 can be found at the county clerk's office. 


For marriages that took place at any time between July 1905 to 2000, and from 2008 to the present day, the records may be obtained at the Vital Records Department of the California Department of Public Health. 


Mailed requests for marriage records must ensue from a well-done application for a certified copy. 


The application document must also come enclosed in a stamped envelope, self-addressed, and delivered to the address below.


California Department of Public Health
Vital Records – MS 5103
PO Box 997410
Sacramento, CA 95899-7410


The process used to obtain divorce records is similar to that which is used for marriage records. 


The California Department of Public Health is the go-to for people in search of divorce records, as is the court that is recorded to have presided over the dissolution of the marriage. 


It may take anything from seven weeks to six months for your request to be processed and granted.

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