Criminal Records – Request Your Own

Access to criminal history summary records maintained by the DOJ is restricted by law to legitimate law enforcement purposes and authorized applicant agencies. However, individuals have the right to request a copy of their own criminal history record from the Department to review for accuracy and completeness. Requests from third parties are not authorized and will not be processed.

Note: Criminal history records requested for an individual’s own review cannot be used for Visa/Immigration or any foreign nation transactions. If you are seeking a background check for Visa/Immigration or any foreign nation transactions, see Visa/Immigration.


California citizens have a right to access public information maintained by go vernment agencies, including the Department of Justice (Department). That right is provided for in the C alifornia Public Records Act and the state constitution, and it includes the right to inspect and copy records of state and local government agencies. As the Legislature stated in enactin g the C ali fornia Public Records Act, “access to information conc erning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state.” The Department’s guidelines for access to public records rest on that principle.

The California Public Records Act (CPRA)

“Public record” is “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.” What constitutes a writing? A writing is defined as “any handwriting, typewriting, printing, photostating, photographing, photocopying, transmitting by electronic mail or facsimile, and every other means of recording upon any form of communication or representation…and any record thereby created, regardless of the manner in which the record has been stored.”A public records request need not state its purpose or the use to which the record will be put by the requester. A requester does not have to justify or explain the reason for exercising his or her fundamental right of access.

California Public Records

Legislation enacting the California Public Records Act (hereinafter, “CPRA”) was signed in 1968, culminating a 15-year-long effort to create a general records law for California. Previously, one was required to look at the law governing the specific type of record in question in order to determine its disclosability. When the CPRA was enacted, an attempt was made to remove a number of these specific laws from the books. However, preexisting privileges such as the attorney-client privilege have been incorporated by reference into the provisions of the CPRA. The fundamental precept of the CPRA is that governmental records shall be disclosed to the public, upon request, unless there is a specific reason not to do so. Most of the reasons for withholding disclosure of a record are set forth in specific exemptions contained in the CPRA. However, some confidentiality provisions are incorporated by reference to other laws. Also, the CPRA provides for a general balancing test by which an agency may withhold records from disclosure, if it can establish that the public interest in nondisclosure clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.