A recent decision by the California Court of Appeals, Fourth District greatly impacts the process of criminal record searches. The court’s decision included a very broad interpretation of one of the California Rules of Court. The rule prohibits the courts from displaying date of birth and driver’s license numbers in certain documents. The court’s expanded interpretation of that rule was that the courts are also prohibited from allowing searches of its electronic criminal index using date of birth or driver’s license number information as a filter. The result is that date of birth and/or driver’s license numbers cannot be used to reduce the number of possible records located when performing a search by name. We disagree with this interpretation as does many large trade organizations including the Consumer Data Industry Association and the Professional Background Screening Association. If you would like to review the case it was All of Us or None—Riverside Chapter, et al. v. W. Samuel Hamrick, Jr. and the rule is California Rules of Court 2.507.
As a result of this decision, and the court clerk’s resulting revised policies, many California criminal court record searches will be delayed. In the past we were able to filter possible hits from name matches using a date of birth or driver’s license number without involving the court clerk. Now, if a possible hit is returned based on name search, the clerk’s involvement is required to filter the results using date of birth or driver’s license numbers. Every county clerk’s office is taking a somewhat different approach to this issue. Some clerks are requiring the filtering to be performed by a member of the clerk’s staff. In other counties the clerks are not performing that function and instead requiring the searcher to pull the case files to determine the date of birth. In some counties the delay will be minimal. In other counties it may take a very long time to have possible hits confirmed. In Los Angeles County, for example, the clerks are not providing assistance in filtering. Instead the clerk allows five case files to be reviewed per person per day to confirm the date of birth. If the possible hit is for a common name then it will take a very long time to review all possible case files with this limitation. There will be no delays in returning results in cases where the name search produces no hits.
We will continue to work through this situation and resolve any delays to the best of our ability. This issue is affecting every person and business who is attempting to check criminal records in California. County level searches are the most up to date and reliable way to checks records in California because, unlike other states, California does not have an accessible statewide record database. The background screening industry as a whole is working toward a resolution to this issue. At this time the most likely resolution will be via a statutory change. Recently SB 1262 was introduced with that exact goal. A full summary of the issue and description of what would be addressed with SB1262 can be found in the link below.
We encourage you to contact your state representatives to show support for SB1262. You may find the contact information for your representatives at this website:
Another route to resolution may be in the form of a rules change by the California Judicial Council. A sample letter urging the Council to make that rule change can be found at the link below. We encourage you to consider sending a letter to the Council supporting this change.
Sample Letter to Judicial Council
We will provide you with updates as updated information is available. As always, we greatly appreciate your business and you can contact us anytime if you would like more information.