California Background Check

What is a Background Check?

A background check or background investigation is the process of researching and compiling past information on an individual. This information is usually gleaned from public records held by government organizations and departments. They include arrest records (warrants, felony and misdemeanor charges, incarcerations, sex offenses), vital records (marriage and divorce records, birth and death certificates, civil court hearings), property records (owned property, estimated values, purchased goods used as collateral), background check records (bankruptcy records, places of residence, occupancies at that residence, and how long people lived there

FCRA Compliance in California Background Checks

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) contains provisions for employers and creditors running background checks on prospective clients. Generally, federal law requires the entity performing the background check to get written consent from the subject. Parties running a background check must also get the full name, social security number, and date of birth of the subject. Furthermore, the employer or creditor must declare the intended use of the information obtained in the report. Otherwise, the subject may sue the entity for damages. Likewise, federal law has specific rules on what information background screening companies can include in a report. For example, a screening company cannot share sensitive information, such as detailed financial data or medical history, on FCRA-compliant background checks. Background screening companies are also responsible for ensuring the “maximum possible accuracy” of the information offered.

Public records searches, informed by the National Freedom of Information Act and California FOIA Laws, offer similar results to FCRA-compliant background checks. The information obtained from a public records search can include criminal records, court records, tax liens and judgments, and bankruptcy rulings. However, because public records searches are non-FCRA compliant, the accuracy of the information in these reports is not guaranteed under the same federal guidelines. Consequently, an employer or creditor cannot use it. Individuals can conduct non-FCRA compliant background checks but it is a federal violation to use non-FCRA compliant background checks to determine a person's eligibility for employment, credit, or housing.

County Infrastructure

In the United States, a county is a political and geographic subdivision of a state, usually assigned some level of governmental authority. Many counties are divided into smaller political or governmental units, which may provide governmental or public services. The importance of the county infrastructure lays on the court legal procedures and incarceration infrastructure. Most court cases in California courts begin in one of the 58 superior or trial courts located in each of the state’s 58 counties. Each county demonstrates a judicial power and legal power by its courts. All small claim cases are assigned to the county courthouses, leaving them with the executive power over a sentence of the case.

Incarceration Infrastructure

California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation is entitled to govern the majority of the imprisonment in the state of California, excluding juvenile incarceration, federal prisons, and county jails.  The state of California registers 33 state prisons held by the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, 11 federal prisons, which includes the following categories: United States Penitentiaries, Federal Correctional Institutions, and Administrative facilities, 2 juvenile facilities held by the California Division of Juvenile Justice.

Criminal Records

A criminal record is defined as an official document that records a person’s criminal history including arrest records, warrant records, felony records, misdemeanor records, and sex offender registration information. The information is assembled and updated from local, county and state jurisdictions, trial courts, courts of appeals as well as county and state correctional facilities. The standard for criminal record collection and storage varies from county to county, but the majority of California criminal records are organized in online record depositories that are available to the public in the form of a Criminal Background Report.

Civil Records

A civil record is defined as the documents which keep, administrate, and maintain all records regarding a person’s most important life events. These records compile such documents as birth certificates, marriage records, divorce records, and death certificates. All the available records are gathered and stored in a permanent central registry state entity that is used to develop statistical analysis of its population presenting it to the public in a report. The records are compiled from the information presented by the bureaus of statistics and vital records, civil court cases, and vital indexes.

Bankruptcy Information

Bankruptcy is a legal status of a person or other entity that cannot repay the debts it owes to creditors. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor. While bankruptcy cases are always filed in United States Bankruptcy Court, an adjunct to the United State District Courts, bankruptcy cases, particularly with respect to the validity of claims and exemptions, are often dependent upon State law. The United States Code signed six types of bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code. The most common types of personal bankruptcy for individuals are addressed in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 which compromise straight bankruptcy and Wage Earner Bankruptcy.

Why are Background Checks Available to the Public?

In 1968, the California State Legislature signed into law the California Public Records Act. This law enacts and guarantees that all records at all government levels of the state of California are made available to the public: California FOIA Laws. Every person throughout the state can request access to all public records through the assigned specialized offices within its determined terms. The availability of the records extends to vital records, court records, criminal records, and bankruptcy information as these cases are governed by the California District Courts.

What Does Background Check Access Mean to the Public?

The California Public Records Act is similar to the Freedom of Information Act except for the statement “people have the right to access the information concerning the conduct of people’s business,” which is enshrined in Article 1 of the California Constitution due to California Proposition 59 (the Sunshine Amendment).