A criminal record can hurt your reputation with employers, friends, and family. After an unfortunate arrest for domestic violence or drunk driving, you may want to keep your arrest private. Unfortunately, criminal records can be accessed by the public and there is a risk that someone will know about your criminal history even if you don't want them to.
If you have a criminal record in California, it may be part of the public record that can turn up in background checks by employers, family members, or even a future spouse or in-law. In some cases, you can have your arrest record cleared through expungement or sealing juvenile records. If you are awaiting the court hearing, talk to an experienced California criminal defense attorney about your rights and legal defense options.
Search Your Criminal Record in California
If you want to know what information might be available to others after an arrest, you should look at your own criminal record to see what it says. There may be a lot of information in criminal arrest and prosecution records. Some of the information may even be incorrect, so you should see what it says before anyone else has a chance to access your records.
According to the California Attorney General, "individuals have the right to request a copy of their own criminal history record from the Department [of Justice} to review for accuracy and completeness." There are different ways to check your California criminal records, depending on where you live.
If you live in California:
- Use the Live Scan Form (Form BCIA 8016RR), (BCIA 8016RR Spanish).
- Check “Record Review” as the “Type of Application”.
- Enter “Record Review” as the “Reason for Application.”
- Fill out all personal information.
- Take the form to a Live Scan site for fingerprinting services.
- Pay a $25 fee (or apply for a fee waiver).
Live Scan sites in Alameda County and Contra Costa County include police departments, sheriff's offices, and other locations. Use these links to find Live Scan locations in your county:
If you live out of state:
- Print out the Application to Obtain Copy of State Summary Criminal History Record (Form BCIA 8705), (Form BCIA 8705S Spanish).
- Contact local law enforcement agency for fingerprinting services, (fingerprint card must contain full name, date of birth, sex, and return mailing address).
- Make a personal check, money order, or certified check for $25, payable to the California Department of Justice.
- Mail application, fingerprint card, and fee to:
California Department of Justice
Bureau of Criminal Identification and Analysis
Record Review & Challenge Section
PO BOX 160207
Sacramento, CA 95816-0207
There Are Problems With My Criminal Record
If there are problems with the accuracy of your criminal record, you can petition to have the record corrected. To challenge the record, you must complete a "Claim of Alleged Inaccuracy or Incompleteness" (Form BCIA 8706). Send the form with a copy of your record and indicate the basis for the claim of inaccuracy, along with any proof of your claim.
Can I Have My Records Sealed or Expunged?
Under California Penal Code §1203.4, individuals who are convicted of an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony and are not sentenced to state prison, can petition for a dismissal. Some people refer to it as expungement but it is a dismissal of the criminal charges. A dismissal will change the criminal record to show a dismissal.
Juveniles may also be able to have their records sealed so they are not available to the public. An individual who is 18 years old or at least 5 years have passed since the arrest or release from probation can apply to have their records sealed. If the individual is eligible, the juvenile court will have a hearing to decide whether to seal the individual's juvenile record. Talk to your California defense attorney about how to get your juvenile records sealed.
Searching Alameda Superior Court
Some court records are available through a public search. The Alameda Superior Court has an online search feature through the Odyssey Portal. Searching the public records can show the party name, case number, case type (felony or misdemeanor), hearing type, and case category.
Individuals can also see a copy of public records at the courthouse where the cases are filed. Courthouses in Alameda County include:
- Dublin - East County Hall of Justice
- Fremont - Fremont Hall of Justice
- Oakland - René C. Davidson Courthouse
- Oakland - Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse
If you are not the victim involved in a criminal case or the defendant, you can get a copy of the police report from the court with the case number and pay a copy fee for the records.
Third-Party Background Check Companies
There are private background check companies that employers and others can use to search an individual's history. For most employment background checks in California, employers can only search back 7 years for criminal convictions. Background check companies can search state and national criminal records and driving records for:
- Felony offenses
- Major vehicle offenses (like a DUI)
- Violent crimes
Which Criminal Records Are Available to the Public?
Some records related to criminal convictions are available to be searched by the public. If someone has been charged with a sex offense, they may be required to register as a sex offender in California. Under Megan's Law, pursuant to California Penal Code § 290.46, the public can search the public website for sex offenders by name or address. A search could turn up information about the individual, including:
- Criminal offense
Avoiding a Criminal Record
The best way to make sure no one can see your criminal record after a domestic violence arrest in Oakland or a DUI in Alameda County is to avoid a conviction in the first place. Even if the police and prosecutor make it seem like you have no other choice, there are many possible defense strategies your attorney can use to get the charges reduced or challenged in court.
If you are arrested in the East Bay, get help as soon as possible by calling an experienced defense attorney. East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 39 years of criminal defense experience and understands the challenges involved in California criminal cases. Contact a local criminal defense lawyer who understands defense strategies and plea bargain negotiations to give you the best chance for success.