Free California Arrest & Criminal Record Search (Every CA County)

Free California Arrest Records & Criminal Records Search
Access California Records: background checks, warrants, probation and parole, court records, and all criminal and arrest records.

Search free California criminal records and arrest records in every county and through official channels today.

While these records are made available to the public in the state of California thanks to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the California Public Records Act (CPRA), the process can be convoluted due to countless record custodians (agencies that host and provide records), processes, restrictions, privacy laws and other nuances that come along with California public record searches.

California Records Page streamlines this process with our how-to guides, which are designed to make access of all types of records quick and easy.

The remainder of this guide will cover how to:

  • Determine if someone is on probation, parole, or has a warrant out for their arrest
  • See if someone is in a California state prison or federal prison
  • Find arrest records and post bail
  • Locate criminal records to see if someone has a criminal history
  • Seal and expunge criminal records
  • Check for sexual predators nearby

For those who are undergoing screenings for employment, licensing, firearms, and housing, statutes surrounding employee rights, background checks, and criminal record antidiscrimination are also reviewed.

Are Criminal Records & Arrest Records Available for the Public To Access in California (CA)?

When determining if someone has a criminal record or an arrest record in California, searches can benefit from knowing what the differences between arrests vs criminal records because they entail slightly different information.

For example, all juvenile records are confidential and inaccessible to the public and adult criminal records are only granted to law enforcement agencies and other authorized applicant agencies through the California Department of Justice (DOJ).1 Individuals may request their own criminal records to assure its accuracy but are prohibited from accessing others’.

A screenshot from the California Department of Justice website showing the criminal histories tab option.
Source: California Department of Justice1

Adult arrest records, on the other hand, are viewable by any citizen in accordance with state FOIA laws including the California Public Records Act (CPRA) although in some cases a redacted version may be given to protect personal information, ongoing litigation details, and other information exempt from public disclosure.2

Californians may access public records held by state and local governments, so arrest records and inmate information are often available from local courthouses, sheriff’s offices and the Department of Justice.3

The deadlines, copying fees, and exceptions for public requests from the DOJ will be honored as follows:

A screenshot of a document titled "Requests for Public Records from the Department of Justice", displaying information on time deadlines, copying fees, and exemptions.
Source: California Department of Justice3

However, criminal records are confidential and will not be disclosed by the DOJ to the general public unless an individual requests their own. The California DOJ Guide to Accessing Public Records can offer direction to searchers as well.4

Information on past and current arrests can be requested or viewed without any stated purpose via local police and sheriff’s department offices or local courthouses in person and, when available, online.

All records requests including criminal history, background checks, and any other public information must be used in alignment with federal rules and regulations outlined and overseen by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) as a protection measure against discrimination and misuse.5, 6

What Information Is Shown on Criminal Records Searches vs Arrest Records in California?

An arrest record and a criminal record or “rap sheet” may show some of the same information, but arrest records involve misdemeanor and felony arrest information once a suspect is in custody, while a criminal record holds both arrest information and conviction details–meaning the individual was found guilty of a crime–so criminal records are more comprehensive.

California arrest records include the following information:

  • Full Name & Known Aliases
  • Gender
  • Date of Birth
  • Arrest Details (Location, Arresting Officer, Time, Date, Reason)
  • Detainment Information & Location

Criminal records in California will not show any criminal convictions from other states or at the federal level and are only available to authorized parties or for requesters wanting their own record, so they are barred from public viewing. Searchers who use third party sites are not limited by California search restrictions and may therefore be able to access more information than government sites will disclose. These third party options can be valuable and useful when searching for criminal records outside of CA, or when the person’s past residences aren’t known.

California criminal records include:

  • Active Warrants
  • Arrests
  • Criminal Cases and Outcomes in California
  • Criminal Charges
  • Date of Birth
  • Detainment & Incarceration Details
  • Ethnicity
  • Fingerprints
  • Full Name & Known Aliases
  • Gender
  • Identifying Tattoos, Scars, Birthmarks
  • Prior Convictions

How To Check for Recent Arrests & Mugshots in California (Look Up Why Someone Is in Jail for Free)

Concerned friends and family members wondering how to find recent arrests in CA or how to find out someone’s charges can do so via several methods, such as by using the state’s inmate locator tool or contacting the sheriff’s office or arresting agency local to where the arrest was made.

These offices and resources will have information on daily arrests and current inmates along with their mugshots (if available) and can be contacted by phone or in person. Many county sheriff’s offices also have a website that provides an online inmate lookup tool similar to the statewide version – both of which are detailed below. In either case, searchers should know the name of the arrestee and the county or city where the arrest was made.

Find California Arrest Records Through County Jails & County Sheriff’s Offices: See CA Mugshots

Searchers wanting to find someone who’s in jail along with their arrest report can do so at the county level via the local sheriff’s office or online county search tool, as county jails are overseen by the California Board of State and Community Corrections but run by the local sheriff’s departments.7

While many county jails do have their own website and lookup tool (which can be found below, if available), not all counties have these online search options so individuals could call the numbers listed below or visit the local sheriff’s office in person instead.

County Inmate Search Tool or Contact Page County Jail or Sheriff’s Office Phone Number Shows Mugshots?
Alameda County Jail: 925-551-6500
Sheriff’s Office: 510-272-6878
Amador County Jail: 209-233-6522
Sheriff’s Office: 530-694-2231
Calaveras County Jail: 209-754-6499
Sheriff’s Office: 209-754-6500
Contra Costa County Jail: 925-335-4600
Sheriff’s Office: 925-655-0000
Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office: 707-464-4191
​​El Dorado County
*2 County Jails
South Lake Tahoe Jail: 530-573-3030
Placerville Jail: 530-621-6000
Sheriff’s Office: 530-621-5655
Fresno County Jail: 559-475-9491
Sheriff’s Office: 559-600-8400
Kern County Sheriff’s Office: 661-861-3110 X
Kings County Jail: 559-584-1431 ext 2812
Sheriff’s Office: 559-584-1431
Lake County Jail: 707-262-4240
Sheriff’s Office: 707-262-4200
Los Angeles County Jail: 213-473-6100
Sheriff’s Office: 213-229-1700
Madera County Jail: 559-675-7951
Sheriff’s Office: 559-675-7703
Marin County Jail: 415-473-6655
Sheriff’s Office: 415-499-6653
Mariposa County Jail: 209- 966-3616
Sheriff’s Office: 209-966-3615
Mendocino County Jail: 707-463-4423
Sheriff’s Office: 707-463-4085
Merced County Jail: 209-385-7410
Sheriff’s Office: 209-385-7445
Mono County Jail: 760-932-7549
Sheriff’s Office: 760-932-7549
Monterey County Jail: 831-755-3782
Sheriff’s Office: 831-755-3700
Napa County Jail: 707-253-4401
Sheriff’s Office: 707-253-4509
Nevada County Jail: 530-265-1291
Sheriff’s Office: 530-265-1471
Orange County Jail: 714-647-4666
Sheriff’s Office: 714-647-7000
Riverside County Jail: 951-955-4500
Sheriff’s Office: 951-955-2400
Sacramento County Jail: 916-874-6752
Sheriff’s Office: 916-874-5115
San Bernardino County Jail: 909-887-0364
Sheriff’s Office: 760-956-5001
San Diego County Jail: 619-610-1647
Sheriff’s Office: 858-974-2222
San Francisco County Jail: 415-553-1430
Sheriff’s Office: 415-554-7225
San Joaquin County Jail: 209-468-4562
Sheriff’s Office: 209-468-4400
San Luis Obispo County Jail: 805-781-4600
Sheriff’s Office: 805-781-4588
San Mateo County Jail: 650-363-4311
Sheriff’s Office: 650-363-4911
Santa Barbara County Jail: 805-683-2724
Sheriff’s Office: 805-681-4100
Santa Clara Jail: 408-808-2800
Sheriff’s Office: 408-299-8890
Santa Cruz County Jail: 831-454-7800
Sheriff’s Office: 831-454-7600
Shasta County Jail: 530-245-6100
Sheriff’s Office: 530-225-5561
Siskiyou County Jail: 530-842-8157
Sheriff’s Office: 530-842-8300
Solano County Jail: 707-784-7100
Sheriff’s Office: 707-784-7000
Sonoma County Jail: 707-565-1400
Sheriff’s Office: 707-565-2121
Stanislaus County Jail: 209-491-8727
Sheriff’s Office: 209-525-7216
Sutter County Jail: 530-822-7302
Sheriff’s Office: 530-822-7307
Tehama County Jail: 530-529-7910
Sheriff’s Office: 530-529-7933
Tulare County Jail: 559-636-4655
Sheriff’s Office: 559-802-9400
Ventura County Jail: 805-933-8501
Sheriff’s Office: 805.654.2380
Yuba County Jail: 530-749-7740
Sheriff’s Office: 530-749-7777

Here are the California counties that do not have online inmate lookup tools along with their phone number and a link to their contact page:

A screenshot from the Tulare County sheriff's office website showing the inmate search page.
Source: Tulare County8

When searching California arrest records or attempting to figure out what someone was arrested for, contacting the county law enforcement from the table above provides the broadest and most reliable results.

For example, someone trying to find arrest records in Orange County has the option of using the inmate search tool, calling the county sheriff, or reaching out to the jail. More in depth information on how to utilize each of these resources to find arrest information–and track down other types of records throughout the county–can be reviewed in our resource on Orange County public records.

Check Local Police Departments in California (Look Up Arrests & Inmate Rosters in California’s City Jails)

Searchers wanting to find recent arrests in California’s city jails should contact the city police department as these are the agencies responsible for operating city jails. If the city is unknown, individuals can start their search at the county level and then narrow down to the city.

Searchers should note that not all city police departments have online inmate locator tools; in such cases, individuals can call or visit the department office in person to inquire about how to find out if someone was arrested and if they’re being held at the city jail.

California arrest records and city jail inmates can be found by following these steps:

Step 1: Google “[City Name] California inmate search”

For example, a citizen seeking information or arrest records on an inmate that was detained in South Pasadena would type “South Pasadena California inmate search”

Step 2: The search results can be reviewed to find the city’s official police department or law enforcement agency website (these may end with “.gov” but do not always)

From the example above, the City of South Pasadena’s Jail website will come up9

Step 3: Review the website to see if there is an inmate registry or search tool for recent arrests

In the case of South Pasadena, there is not an online search tool but the Jail Information page states that the South Pasadena Police Department (SPPD) can be contacted at (626)403-7270 for general inmate status information

Step 4: Use the online search tool to type in an inmate’s full name or ID number (if available); if not, call the police department’s non-emergency phone number to ask about a specific inmate or arrest. Department offices can also be visited for in person inquiries.

Individuals still unsure of how to perform a search or in need of assistance could opt to seek the help of a bail bondsman to check whether an inmate is in a certain jail and help with navigating the process of bail.

Learn How To Contact California Jail Inmates & Bail Them Out

Friends, family members, and other interested persons may contact jail inmates during regular phone hours between 8a.m. and 9:45p.m. at most locations, unless inmates have had phone access restricted for disciplinary reasons.

All inmate phone usage is available via Global Tel Link (GTL)/ViaPath and outgoing calls must be either collect or prepaid and are subject to monitoring unless to an attorney or ombudsman. Relatives and other inmate contacts must create a GTL account to be able to receive calls.

The state of California prohibits any detained person from being held for the sole reason of not being able to afford bail. Evidence must be given to prove that the inmate is a threat to public safety or released without being charged any fee, but there may be stipulations such as losing firearm access.

Though the bail amount and process in California varies based on alleged crime and the county it occurred in, the generic steps to post bail for inmate include:

Step 1: Confirm the location of the inmate by contacting the jail or using a search tool on the sheriff’s department website, if available. A full name, date of birth, and booking number will be needed.

For example, an interested party wanting to post bail for an inmate in El Dorado County would check the El Dorado county sheriff’s department website from the table above and could type the individual’s name into the search bar or call the sheriff’s office directly at 530-621-5655 to inquire about which jail the inmate is held in (El Dorado County has two jails)

Step 2: Find out the exact bail amount by checking if it’s listed on the county search site, calling the sheriff’s department or jail, or requesting the help of a bail bondsman.

Continuing the El Dorado example, if the searcher found out that the inmate was held at Placerville Jail, they could call 530-621-6000 and ask, “How much is bail for [name of inmate]?”

Step 3: Choose a method of paying bail; in California, there are three options. Cash bail must be paid in full, bail bonds require both a set fee and collateral, and property bail (more rare) means that real estate is given as collateral instead of money.

Bail set at $20,000 for a Placerville Jail inmate would have to be paid in full by an individual choosing to pay cash

Step 4: Post (pay) bail through a bail bondsman (they can expedite the process but will usually charge at least a 10% non-refundable fee) or directly to the jail.

Step 5: The inmate will be released usually within a time frame of 30 minutes to 4 hours depending on processing time.

How To Search California (CA) Criminal Records

California criminal records are kept by county courts as well as the California Department of Justice, but background checks may also show some criminal history information as well.1

However, criminal records are not available to the public in California so any individual can only request their own record copy. Though the public cannot access criminal records aside from their own report, official law enforcement agencies and other officials or specific employers authorized by the Department of Justice can access criminal records either online or in person.

Perform a Criminal Record Search in California Through the County’s Court Case Access or Clerk of Court

As previously mentioned, individuals may only access their own criminal records in California so others’ records will be inaccessible to the general public; however, by contacting other states’ courts, online criminal record systems or other record custodians, citizens may find other criminal records that originated outside of the state of California.

Organizations, certain employers, and other authorized officials or entities may go through FCRA-compliant background check companies to obtain certain criminal information and records in regards to determining employment, volunteering, housing and licensing verification.

California residents who wish to review their own criminal records can do so by contacting the local courthouse. All California Superior Courts can be found in the table below (alphabetically by county).

County Criminal Record Search County Courthouse Address Shows Mugshots?
Alameda* 2233 Shore Line Drive
Alameda, CA 94501
Alpine** 14777 State Route 89
Markleeville, CA 96120
Amador* 500 Argonaut Lane
Jackson, CA 95642
Butte One Court Street
Oroville, CA 95965-3303
Calaveras 400 Government Center Drive,
San Andreas, CA 95249
Colusa** 547 Market St
Colusa, CA 95932
Contra Costa 725 Court Street
Martinez, CA 94553
Del Norte 450 H Street
Crescent City, CA 95531
El Dorado* 495 Main Street
Placerville, CA 95667
Fresno 2317 Tuolumne Street
Fresno, CA 93721-1220
Glenn 526 West Sycamore St
Willows, CA 95988
Humboldt** 825 5th Street
Eureka, CA 95501
Imperial* 220 Main Street
Brawley, CA 92227
Inyo 301 West Line Street
Bishop, CA 93514
Kern 1122 Jefferson St
Delano, CA 93215
Kings 1640 Kings County Drive
Hanford, CA 93230
Lake 7000-A South Center Drive
Clearlake, CA 95422
Lassen* 2610 Riverside Drive
Susanville, CA 96130
Los Angeles 5925 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Madera* 200 South G Street
Madera, CA 93637
Marin 3501 Civic Center Vera Schultz Dr
San Rafael, CA 94903
Mariposa 5088 Bullion Street
Mariposa, CA 95338
Mendocino 100 North State St
Ukiah, CA 95482
Merced* 1159 G St
Los Banos, CA 93635
Modoc* 205 S East Street
Alturas, CA 96101
Mono** 100 Thompson Way
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
Monterey 240 Church St
Salinas, CA 93901
Napa 1111 Third Street
Napa, CA 94559
Nevada* 201 Church Street
Nevada City, CA 95959
Orange 700 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Placer 10820 Justice Center Drive
Roseville, CA 95678
Plumas** 520 Main Street
Quincy, CA 95971
Riverside* 311 E. Ramsey Street
Banning, CA. 92220
Sacramento* 720 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
San Benito* 450 Fourth Street
Hollister, CA 95023
San Bernardino 247 W 3rd St
San Bernardino, CA 92415
San Diego 1100 Union StSan Diego, CA 92101 X
San Francisco 400 McAllister St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
San Joaquin 180 E. Weber Ave.
Stockton, CA 95202
San Luis Obispo** 1050 Monterey Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93408
San Mateo 400 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063
Santa Barbara 118 E. Figueroa Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Santa Clara 191 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95113
Santa Cruz 701 Ocean Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Shasta 1500 Court Street
Redding, California 96001
Sierra** 100 Courthouse Square
Downieville, CA 95936
Siskiyou* 411 Fourth Street
Yreka, CA 96097
Solano* 600 Union Ave
Fairfield, CA
Sonoma* 600 Administration Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Stanislaus* 800 11th Street
Modesto, CA 95354
Sutter 1175 Civic Center Blvd
Yuba City, CA 95993
Tehama** 1740 Walnut St.
Red Bluff, CA 96080
Trinity** 11 Court Street
Weaverville, CA 96093
Tulare* 300 E. Olive
Porterville, CA 93257
Tuolumne** 12855 Justice Center Dr.
Sonora, CA
Ventura 800 South Victoria Avenue
Ventura, California 93009
Yolo 1000 Main Street
Woodland, CA 95695
Yuba 215 Fifth Street
Marysville, CA 95901

* denotes that a free account must be created to use the case or inmate search tool
** denotes that the court website does not have an online criminal record search tool

Though contacting the county Superior Courts listed in the table above or using their online directory of cases are the most effective options for obtaining criminal record information, county clerks may also be able to give guidance.

Find Prison Inmates in a CA State Prison or a Federal Penitentiary

Although California criminal records can only be obtained by the public when it is for a person’s own report, this only applies to crimes prosecuted by state and local law enforcement. Federal criminal records do not fall under the same rules, so federal criminal history information can be accessed through a Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate search, available by either name or BOP number by filling out the required fields.18 19

Addiotnally, this tool provides federal inmate records for anyone released after 1982, not just current prisoners.10

A screenshot of a search page for inmate information on a white background with black text, the page includes fields for entering the inmate's CDCR number, last name, first name, and middle name, along with a search button.
Source: CDCR19

Users can search either by CDCR number (if known) or by an inmate’s last name. For example, a search for “James Brown” will bring up the following results:

A screenshot of an inmate search results page on a white background with black text, the page displays a list of inmates matching the search criteria, including their CDCR number, name, age, admission date, current location.
Source: CDCR19

The online mugshot database may be incomplete in which case searchers can visit the relevant county police department or sheriff’s office to request to view a mugshot since these are legally available to the public per the CPRA.

The screenshot displays information about a particular inmate, it includes the inmate's full name, CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) number, age, and admission date. alongside the inmate's current location, a link to the prison location where they're location, and the inmate's parole eligible date.
Source: CDCR19

Individuals can also try the Federal Bureau of Prisons search tool to aid in their search for federal prisoners houses within or outside the state.23

A screenshot of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Find an Inmate website, displaying the search page, the page includes an input field for the inmate's ID number and a "Search" button to initiate the search, the page is surrounded by white space, and the overall color scheme is blue and white.
Source: Federal Bureau of Prisons10

Since this is a federal website, searches will show more results with just name searches, so knowing an inmate’s full name, age, and sex can help narrow down these results.

Find an Inmate' web page featuring a menu with options for Home, About Us, Inmates, Locations, Careers, Business, Resources, and Contact Us, beneath the menu, there is a search bar to find an inmate with options to search by number or name, if searching by name, the user is required to input the inmate's first name, middle name, last name, race, and sex.
Source: BOP: Federal Inmates By Name10

Third party people finder sites may also provide helpful criminal history details since the search spans across multiple states and jurisdictions.

How To Request & Obtain a Copy of Criminal Records: See Your Own CA Criminal History Report

California allows residents to request your own criminal record by filling out an Application for Criminal History Report. These records can be requested out of pure curiosity, or to see if there are any inaccuracies before applying for a job.11,12

A screenshot of the California Application for Criminal History Report form. The form is a PDF document with a plain white background and black text, at the top of the page, there is a section for personal information, including the applicant's name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number.
Source: California Office of the Attorney General12

Applications must be accompanied by a $25 processing fee payment to the Department of Justice and applicants are required to submit fingerprints from any of the statewide Live Scan Fingerprinting Locations.13

A screenshot of a Live Scan Fingerprinting Locations page with a list of operators, their corresponding date, transmitting agency, LSID, ATI number, and amount collected or billed.
Source: California Department of Justic14

Authorized locations must fill out their portion portion of the form before criminal records will be released.

To check eligibility to have the $25 application fee waived, applicants who fall into the categories listed below may opt to apply for a fee waiver, but will still have to pay the separate fingerprinting fee to the live scan service provider.15

A screenshot from the Office of the Attorney General California website showing the apply for a fee waiver page.
Source: Office of the Attorney General15

Requesters should be aware that certified copies of criminal records are only made available to law enforcement agencies, the Attorney General, and other authorized agencies.16

How To Determine if Someone Is on Probation or Parole in California

Probation usually refers to a release from jail while parole often means a release from prison, but since there isn’t often a dedicated parolee database or online probation search, the following guide can assist searchers wanting to find whether someone is on either probation or parole in California.

The Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) is tasked with conducting parole suitability hearings and nonviolent offender parole reviews in California, as well as managing foreign prisoner transfers and investigating any requests for pardons and commutations of sentences.17

A screenshot from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website showing the parole suitability hearings page.
Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation17

The BPH is overseen by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) office.18 The CDCR site has an online search tool called the CDCR Public Inmate Locator System which can provide searchers with information on parole status as well.19

As a final option, searchers could call the probation or parole offices directly.

How To Seal or Expunge Criminal Records in CA

In California, criminal records can be much more easily sealed and expunged than in most other states. Records of misdemeanor arrests and convictions are automatically sealed after one year if all requirements are met and new charges have not been added, or if the arrest did not result in a guilty conviction. A majority of felony arrest and conviction records are also sealed automatically if an offender has avoided trouble for 4 years.

Although records are not automatically sealed for serious or violent felons, these offenders can still petition for a record to be sealed but it will not be closed without action taken. Offenders hoping to have their records sealed must complete and submit Form CR-409, which will be approved or denied by a judge.20

A screenshot from the Judicial Branch of California Courts website showing the petition to seal arrest and related records form.
Source: Judicial Branch of California20

On the other hand, sex offenders are not able to seal the offense that landed them on the registry.

To expunge records, prior offenders can use the California Guide to Clearing Criminal Records which will explain the full process and steps for requesting dismissals.21 A summary of the process is as follows:

Step 1: Fill out CR-180 Petition for Dismissal22

A screenshot of a Petition for Dismissal form displayed on a plain white background with black text, the form includes fields for the petitioner's personal information such as name, address, and contact details.
Source: California Courts22

Step 2: Pay the appropriate court fees or submit fee waivers (found on pages 16-28 of the Guide to Clearing Criminal Records)21

Step 3: Serve the City or District Attorney one copy of the expungement petition if required by the court

Step 4: The court will make a decision on whether or not to expunge the record within 3 months; if the petition is denied, a request for reconsideration may be filed within 60 days or the petition may be filed again at a later time

How To Perform an Active Warrant Search in California (Check for CA)

Federal warrants issued by the U.S. Marshals show up in the WIN database but are not available to the public; thankfully there are other ways for individuals to check if there is a warrant out for their arrest. Interested parties can request their own record through the Department of Justice by submitting their fingerprints and a $25 fee.11

Others’ records are not accessible to the public through the DOJ but many sheriff’s offices and department websites do have a warrant list, so local offices can be contacted or their webpages checked for a potential database.

A screenshot from the County of Santa Clara website showing the find inmate page.
Source: County of Santa Clara24

For example, the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department website has an “inmate finder” tool that shows inmate information and arrest details including warrants and warrant bail amounts.24

Additionally, warrant details can be requested for free either in person by appointment or via mail through the the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Office Records. The same lies true for most counties in California.

More information on local warrant lookups–as well as ways to efficiently search all types of county public records–can be viewed via our resource on ways to access public information in Santa Clara County at no cost. Guidance on finding vital records, conducting background checks, and investigating someone’s criminal past is available there, among other record types.

A Rundown of California Background Checks

The California Department of Justice operates the state’s criminal record repository and is in charge of overseeing background checks for the FBI as well, as an authorized entity; these background checks can be used for an array of both personal and public purposes, including but not limited to:

  • Employment
  • Purchase of Firearms
  • Housing
  • Adoption
  • Security Clearance

Professional checks into an applicant’s or potential renter’s history must adhere to state and federal laws and the subject of the background check must authorize it beforehand.

A Level 1 background check uses the subject’s name to search local county or state criminal and employment history while Level 2 checks are much more in-depth and comprehensive; these return information at the national level and are performed with the subject’s fingerprint instead of a name-based search.

Other than employment and criminal history, Level 2 background checks show previous residences, employers, education, credit history, marital status, and all criminal charges and prior arrests and detainments. These more comprehensive checks are usually reserved for jobs in the healthcare sector, caring for or teaching children or the elderly, and some C-level positions.

The DOJ can run a Level 1 Fingerprint Background Check but forwards some fingerprints to the FBI for deeper Level 2 checks via the national criminal history database.25

When an employer or other agency provides individuals with a BCIA 8016 Form requesting a live scan fingerprint, the individual must then complete the form and have the fingerprint scan done.26 These may be performed at any Live Scan Fingerprinting Locations, which will forward fingerprints to the DOJ electronically on the individual’s behalf.13 The applicant agency will usually receive the results of the background check within 48-72 hours unless it needs further review.

Background check laws including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Act protect against discrimination regarding checks done for professional purposes.

Personal background checks can be accessed without giving a reason but information within them cannot be used to harass, stalk, or otherwise negatively impact the subject of the record.

How To Use the California Sex Offender Registry To Check for Sexual Predators Nearby

Searching a sex offender registry in California can either be done at the national level via the United States Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website or through the statewide search system.27

The California Megan’s Law website gives the public access to a statewide sex offender registry based on information from the California Sex and Arson Registry (CSAR) sex offender repository.28

Concerned individuals who choose to perform a statewide sex offender search should either type the subject’s first and last name or search by address and radius on the right side of the California Megan’s Law website homepage and click “Search”28

For example, a name-based search for “John Smith” would be submitted in the pictured format.

California Megan's Law website screenshot with search fields on the left for name, city, and zip code, and a map of California on the right side, the map shows icons indicating registered sex offenders' locations, and the left side displays search results.
Source: California Megan’s Law29

Information provided by offender profiles on the Megan’s Law site includes all of the following, if available:

  • Name
  • Mugshot
  • Known Aliases
  • Date of Birth
  • Sex
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Eye Color
  • Hair Color
  • Ethnicity
  • Offense Code
  • Offense Description
  • Year of Last Conviction
  • Year of Last Release
  • Risk Assessment
  • Last Reported Address
  • Scars, Marks & Tattoos

Users should then review the search results and click “More Info” or “Map” to see details about any offender and their location.

For example, clicking on “More Info” under sex offender Joseph Crane would give the following Offender Profile and details:

Offender profile contains information such as the offender's name, known aliases, physical description, and details of their criminal offenses.
Source: California Megan’s Law29

California’s Laws Pertaining to Criminal Records & Arrest Records

The California Public Records Act allows the public to access records of government bodies in California without giving a reason, but California arrest records and criminal records are not always fully available for privacy and safety reasons as well as cases of ongoing or pending litigation or charges.2

Public agencies have 10 days to fulfill records requests and requesters should note that law enforcement investigations and some personal information is confidential and exempt from the Public Records Act.

California’s “ban the box” law is formally called the Fair Chance Act and was codified in the state’s Assembly Bill 1008 as an anti-discriminatory statute prohibiting employers from considering any potential employee’s prior non-conviction arrests.30

Replevin Law also allows for state and local government agencies to recover any public records in possession of an unauthorized organization, person, or other entity.31

Any member of the public may perform a personal background check on another person without their consent to review their criminal records, but any employer, landlord, or other entity performing a background check for professional purposes must first attain the subject’s consent and abide by all local, state, and federal laws. Additionally, background checks for professional purposes must abide by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

California arrest records are available to the public via county search tools or local law enforcement agencies. Alternatively, California criminal records can be obtained by the subject themselves through the California DOJ or for others via the Bureau of Prisons or third party sites.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does California Have a Drug Offender Registry?

The Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) is California’s drug offender registry, but the public does not have access as this is only available to authorized and licensed California pharmacists, prescribers, dispensers, and law enforcement agencies.

Is There a California Felony Registry?

Felony criminal records can be accessed at local county courthouses or sheriff’s departments, or online via the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, CDCR, or VINElink.

How Do I Know if I Have Been Charged With a Crime in California?

California residents can call the local sheriff’s department to inquire about an active warrant or can check their own criminal record for an outstanding warrant by requesting a criminal record copy via the California DOJ.


1State of California Department of Justice. (2023). Department of Justice: California. California Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved April 7, 2023, from <>

2State of California Franchise Tax Board. (2023, January 25). California Public Records Act. California Franchise Tax Board. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

3California Office of the Attorney General. (2023). Public Records. State of California Department of Justice. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

4State of California Office of the Attorney General. (2023, January). CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE GUIDELINES FOR ACCESS TO PUBLIC RECORDS [PDF]. California Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

5U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2023). U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved April 7, 2023, from <>

6Federal Trade Commission. (2023). Fair Credit Reporting Act. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved April 7, 2023, from <>

7Board of State and Community Corrections. (2023). BSCC. California Board of State and Community Corrections. Retrieved April 7, 2023, from <>

8Tulare County. Accessed 24 May 2023. <>

9City of South Pasadena. (2023). Jail Information. City of South Pasadena, California. Retrieved April 12, 2023, from <>

10Federal Bureau of Prisons. (2023). Find an Inmate. FBOP. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from <>

11State of California Department of Justice. (2023). Criminal Records – Request Your Own. California Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

12State of California Department of Justice. (2020, October). APPLICATION TO OBTAIN COPY OF STATE SUMMARY CRIMINAL HISTORY. California Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

13State of California Department of Justice. (2023). Live Scan Locations. California Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <>

14BCIA 8016RR – REQUEST FOR LIVE SCAN. California Department of Justice. Accessed 30 April 2023. <>

15State of California Department of Justice. (2023). Apply for a Fee Waiver. California Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <>

16State of California Department of Justice. (2023). Criminal Records – Certified Copies. California Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

17California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (2023). Board of Parole Hearings. CDCR. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <>

18California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (2023). California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. CDCR. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

19California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. (2023). CDCR Inmate Locator: Public Inmate Locator System. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

20The Judicial Branch of California. (2019, January 1). Petition to Seal Arrest and Related Records. California Courts. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <>

21Judicial Branch of California. (2007, April). Clearing Your Adult Criminal Record in California: A Step-by-Step Guide. California Courts. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <>

22Judicial Council of California. (2019, January 1). CR-180 Petition for Dismissal. California Courts. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <>

23Federal Bureau of Prisons. (2023). Find an inmate. Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved April 8, 2023, from <>

24County of Santa Clara. (2023). Santa Clara Inmate Search. County of Santa Clara Department of Correction. Retrieved April 17, 2023, from <>

25State of California Department of Justice. (2023). Fingerprint Background Checks. California Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

26California Department of Justice. (2020, April). FORM BCIA 8016 REQUEST FOR LIVE SCAN SERVICE. California Office of the Attorney General. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from <>

27United States Department of Justice. (2023). Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website. NSOPW. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from <>

28State of California Department of Justice Office of the Attorney General. (2023). California Megan’s Law Website. Megan’s Law. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from <>

29California Megan’s Law. Accessed 30 April 2023. <>

30California Legislative Council. (2017, October 16). AB-1008 Employment discrimination: conviction history. California Legislative Information. Retrieved April 9, 2023, from <>

31Weber, S. N., & California Secretary of State. (2009). Recovering Public Records through California’s Replevin Law. California Secretary of State. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from < >