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What is a Criminal Record?

California criminal records are official documents that outline the criminal activity of persons within its jurisdiction. Also known as rap sheets, criminal records typically encompass crime-related information such as arrest data, indictments, pending dispositions and conviction information all assembled from local, county law enforcement offices as well as trial and appeal courts and state-run correctional facilities.


What is Contained in a Criminal Record?

California criminal records generally comprise of the following:

  • The full name of the subject (including any known aliases)
  • The birth date, race/ethnicity, and fingerprints of the subject
  • A mugshot and details of unique physical descriptors
  • All previous and current indictments
  • Arrest records and outstanding warrants
  • Conviction information

What are Arrest Records?

California arrest records are official documents providing information regarding persons who have been taken into custody following their alleged involvement in a crime. While these records feature details of the apprehension and detention, they may not serve as a criminal record unless the arrest is followed by an indictment or court hearing. California State laws provide that not all arrests will result in detention. Some arrests may result in the arrestee being ticketed or questioned. California arrest records typically feature details of the alleged crime as well as:

  • The personal information of the arrestee: their name, birth date, gender, etc.
  • Date and place of the arrest
  • The name of the arresting officer
  • The address of the detention center or jail
  • The name of the issuer of the arrest warrant

What is an Arrest Warrant?

California arrest warrants are a court-issued order which provides authorization to the bearer to arrest the person(s) named on the document. Arrest warrants are typically issued following the request and/or sworn affidavit of a law enforcement agent or district attorney with claims that an individual was/is involved in criminal activity. Warrants are issued by a judge or magistrate and may also provide authorization for the search and/or seizure of private property signed and issued by a judge or magistrate on behalf of the local and state jurisdictions. Most warrants are only valid for a specified period of time unless otherwise indicated.

Arrest warrants in California typically contain:

  • Details of the alleged criminal offense
  • The full personal information of the suspect
  • The time and place the arrest may take place
  • An expiry date (if applicable)
  • The date on which the warrant was issued/the name of the issuer
  • Any applicable bail/bond conditions

As per California state law, state or local police may execute an arrest for a felony crime without a warrant. However, the arresting officer must have probable cause in making an arrest of this kind.

What are Misdemeanors?

California misdemeanors refer to non-indictable or minor criminal offenses for which the maximum sentence is no more than one-year incarceration. They are generally known to be less severe than felonies and in the state of California are categorized into standard and gross/aggravated misdemeanors based on their severity. In addition to this, there are also California Wobbler Offenses which are uncategorized crimes that the prosecutor may choose to charge an infraction, misdemeanor or felony. Some common misdemeanors in California include:

  • Standard misdemeanors: drug possession, public intoxication, shoplifting, petty theft, etc.
  • Aggravated misdemeanors: Domestic battery, restraining order violation, etc.

What are Felonies?

A felony in the state of California is the most severe category of criminal offenses. These crimes attract a sentence of more than one year in prison and at the maximum, may be punishable by life sentences or death. The punishment for a felony in the state of California is fixed by a crime-by-crime base. Felony crime punishments may include fines of up to $10,000 in addition to or instead of imprisonment.

As per California state law, there are two types of felonies -- straight felonies and wobbler felonies. These are primarily distinguished by what there can be charged as. While felonies may not be charged as or reduced to a misdemeanor, wobbler felonies may be charged as misdemeanors or infraction based on the specific facts of the case and the criminal history of the defendant. Most serious California offenses are considered straight felonies especially those that count as “strike” in line with California's “three-strike” law. Some examples of California state felonies include:

  • Straight felonies: murder, rape, vehicular manslaughter
  • Wobbler felonies: domestic violence, forgery, assault, vandalism

California Sex Offender Listings

California sex offender listings refer to the various registries of sex offenders maintained by various jurisdictions across the state. These listings were developed following the establishment of the nationwide sex offender registration law, requiring convicted offenders to be registered in a public access database. The listings feature the names, locations and compliance status of sex offenders resident in specific jurisdictions.

All the information assembled by California state county and city law enforcement agents is also published on the Californa Sex Offender Registry for easier public access. Members of the public may conduct offender searches on the registry as they deem fit. However, it is the primary responsibility of the presiding judge to determine who should be registered on any of these listings. A judge may order an adult to register as a sex offender if the crime he/she was convicted of involves sexual motivation.

California Megan’s Law

Following the establishment of the federally adopted Megan's Law, the California Megan's Law registry was launched. The registry lists adults and juveniles (convicted in juvenile court and sent to a state-level incarceration facility) as well as of state residents that come to California to reside, visit, or work who have been convicted of sexually related crimes. The passage of Megan's Law provides that information regarding the location, compliance status and conviction history of all sex offenders be made public. Included on the registry are the full names and aliases of the offenders as well as their photographs, details of unique identifiers, home, work and/or school addresses as well as details of their past crimes.

What is a Serious Traffic Violation?

Serious traffic violations in the state of California refer to misdemeanor traffic violations that result in damages or injury or threat of injury or damage. These typically include offenses involving reckless driving or DUIs and will mostly result in a ticket or license suspension as violation points accumulate on the driver's record, as well as jail time (if applicable). When a traffic citation in California is received, the recipient may opt to fight his/her ticket or make a payment to the court in the county where he/she received it. However, as tickets can stay on a driver's record for up to 10 years, the DMV may suspend a driver's license if they acquire 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months, or 8 points in 36 months.

What are Conviction Records?

California conviction records are official documents that indicate that an indicted person, following their plea and/or court hearing has been found guilty of the crime for which they are charged. These charges may be an infraction, misdemeanor or a felony, and convictions are typically rendered by a jury of the defendant's peers or a judge in a court of law. California conviction records indicate when the subject has been judged delinquent, has been less than honorably discharged or has been placed on probation, fined, imprisoned or paroled. However, these records exclude final judgments that have been deleted by a pardon, set aside, reversed or otherwise rendered inoperative.

What are Jail and Inmate Records?

California jail and inmate records refer to documents pertaining to persons who have been incarcerated, as well as relevant information regarding housing facilities across the state. While these records are primarily generated by the various jurisdictions and their correctional facilities, detention centers and housing units, these institutions are unified under the California Department of Corrections. The department operates a Records Division which is tasked with managing and disseminating information regarding inmates and their respective facilities. Included on a California inmate record are:

  • The full name and alias of the inmate
  • Details of the convicted offense
  • Relevant personal data including their birth date, gender, mugshot, etc.
  • Date of incarceration and prospective release date
  • The location of the facility where they are housed and the security level
  • Any relevant past convictions and sentences served
  • Bail/bond conditions (if applicable)

Where to get Parole Information

California parole information primarily indicates the release of a prisoner prior to the completion of their maximum sentence, haven met all required conditions. This information is managed and disseminated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to which the states Parole Board reports. The board is tasked with conducting hearings for adult inmates within the jurisdiction of the state and following a successful hearing, a prisoner is on supervised parole with various conditions depending on the inmate's earlier conviction and their behavior while in custody.

All information pertaining to parolees in California can be obtained using the Board of Parole Hearings online resource. The CDCR Inmate Locator System can be used to view information regarding a parolee status by conducting online searches using the inmate's full name or CDCR number. The board grants parole and may impose conditions of parole it deems appropriate in order to ensure the best interests of the prisoner and the citizens of California are served.

What are Probation Records?

California probation records are official documents that indicate that a convicted person has been allowed to serve their sentences outside a correctional facility under supervision. Probation records typically feature details of the indictment, including the convicted criminal offense, date of the judgment as well as the personal data of the subject on probation. These records are primarily managed by the state Department of Corrections and may be made available to interested members of the public upon request.

Most probation sentences differ, and as such probation records will likely vary between individuals. The length of time and the conditions to be met by the persons involved will depend mostly on the crime for which they were indicted, their criminal history and the discretion of the judge. While some probation may be strict and intensive supervised, others may be minimally supervised, allowing the individual to go about their normal business.

What are Juvenile Criminal Records?

California juvenile criminal records are documents pertaining to the criminal activity of persons under legal adult age. These records typically include reports of all arrests, judgments, exhibits, probation reports, indictments and adjudications. However, rather than considering juveniles convicts, they are found to be “adjudicated delinquent.” While most juvenile records are deemed confidential, they may still be accessed by persons such as prospective employers and landlords, licensors and lenders. Juvenile criminal records may be sealed after the subject of the record becomes 18 or older and if they are not convicted of a felony as an adult. Subsequent to this, the subject of the sealed record may truthfully claim that they have no criminal history. However, under special circumstances, these records may be reopened unless they are expunged or destroyed.

California History and Accuracy of Criminal Records

While the advent of technology has dramatically improved record management processes in the state of California, the accuracy of the data of criminal records depends on the recordkeeping and technological capabilities of the jurisdiction where the record was assembled and later digitized. Most criminal records archives of the state go back into the pre-technological era before criminal and arrest data started to be centralized and compiled into an organized database. However, having eliminated the place of human error, current technological advancements have improved quality and accuracy of recordkeeping improved exponentially.

How to Find Criminal Records in California

California criminal records are organized in state-managed online record depositories. These reports may be accessed through a number of courts, law enforcement offices, and through the official California State Records Online Database. Records may be made available to the public in the form of a Criminal Background Report.

The amount of criminal records information presented on as well as the resources for retrieving information generally varies. This is because different sources often have non-standardized state level protocols, storage classifications, requirements, organization and digitization processes.

California State Archives

State Archives

Contact: (916) 299-6844

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Results are based upon available information from state, county and municipal databases, and may not include some or all of the above details.

Criminal Record

Criminal Record