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California Arrest Records

California Arrest Records are public documents that contain information about people arrested and questioned by the police for a crime. In California, the police may arrest and prosecute anybody caught or suspected of breaching the state's Penal Code.

When someone is arrested, the state's law enforcement agencies create these records and keep them up to date.

Though people see arrest records as criminal in California, they do not prove a person did something unlawful. Instead, it gives information about an arrest based on suspicion of illegal activity, which may be very important for the suspect's trial. Thus, the state allows persons to remove arrest records if wrongfully charged or freed.

Are California Arrest Records public? According to Section 6254(f) of the California Government Code, popularly known as the California Public Records Act (CPRA), some information included within an arrest record may be available for public inspection.

A person's arrest record is a documented report of their arrest by the police. Because of this, the record will usually have the following information:

  • Personal information that includes the full name, known aliases, birth date, current address, job, social security number, etc
  • Physical descriptions like the suspect's gender, weight, height, gender, race, eye and hair color, tattoos, and any other unique features
  • Crime information, such as the type of crime (whether an infraction, felony, or misdemeanor), a description of the crime, and any criminal charges the individual faced
  • Details about arrests and bookings like the suspect's fingerprints, mugshots, type of arrest,  booking number, date and time of booking, arrest time and date, location of arrest, type of arrest, arresting agency, time and way of release, bail amount, outstanding warrants (if any)
  • Other details related to the police interrogation

What Laws Govern Arrests in California?

California Penal Code section 836 lets police arrest suspects without an arrest warrant if the officer has probable cause to think the suspect violated any of the following:

  • A felony
  • Domestic battery
  • Assault or battery against a family member
  • A breach of a restraining order against domestic violence
  • An airport concealed firearm violation
  • Other misdemeanors committed in the officer's presence
  • In this law, the police can arrest suspects without a warrant if:
  • The police officer has reasonable grounds that the subject committed a crime in his presence
  • The police officer has a good reason to think the suspect did something illegal
  • The criminal committed a crime regardless of whether the police were there or not

Penal Code section 836 also compels police to inform alleged victims of domestic abuse that they may make a citizen's arrest if they don't arrest anybody. Police should teach victims how to conduct a citizen's arrest safely.

What Is the Arrest Booking Process in California?

California's arrest booking process is the same as in other states. The police officer will immediately bring the arrested to the county prison or detention facility. While they are there, the intake officer writes down important information like their name, phone number, address, and other information like who to call in case of an emergency.

Most of the time, the arrest booking process in California includes the following:

  • Arrestees get one call and a lawyer.
  • The law enforcement officers will get fingerprints and mugshots
  • Weapons, narcotics, and other contraband are searched
  • A doctor may also check them out
  • Arrestees' clothing and other belongings are stored
  • The suspect gets prison clothes
  • The officer in charge assigns them a detention cell until bail is paid

What Are California Mugshot Records?

Along with other personal information, California Arrest Records include mugshots. Mugshot is a regular part of the booking process in California. It consists of two pictures. The first is a frontal shot that depicts the person's complete look, while the second is a profile shot (side view).

Law enforcement agencies obtain mugshots of criminals so that the public, victims, and sometimes witnesses can recognize them. Investigators also use them because they quickly become essential to the police and criminal records.

In this state, police mugshots are public records. But each police department decides when and how to release them.

Still, some newspaper websites put up mugshots from California as soon as they are made public. You can also find mugshots from every state on informational portals, database websites, and government sites. These include prisoner locator websites like the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the California State Archives.

How Long Does an Arrest Record Stay in California?

California law does not specify how long arrest records stay on file. Thus, law enforcement agencies stick to the schedules set by the law, their departments, and management. It also depends on the record retention policy of the agency in charge of the record.

This policy may depend on whether the arrest was a felony or misdemeanor. Also, if the court case has concluded or the defendant has fulfilled all penalties.

For example, the state's Department of Justice reserves the authority to store all criminal and arrest records in its database until the individual reaches the age of 100. On the other hand, local law enforcement agencies have different rules about how long they keep arrest records.

In Los Angeles County Sheriff, arrest records last for nine years, while in the San Diego Sheriff's Department for ten years. In San Diego, for escapees, homicides, sex crimes, and child-related crimes, the department may keep records longer.

But if you have a record filed by the San Luis Police Department, it will stay on file indefinitely.

How To Expunge an Arrest Record in California?

In California, there are several ways for people to seal or get rid of their arrest records. Sections 851.8 and 851.91 of the state's Penal Code explain how to file a petition with the court. The law that applies depends on the facts of the case.

Sealing an Arrest Record Under Section 851.8

Section 851.8 states that an adult wrongfully arrested or "factually innocent" can ask the court or police agency in charge to seal and destroy their arrest record.

If no brought charges or dropped before trial, the petitioner might submit Form BCIA-8279 or any available local form.

The petitioner must use a different form if acquitted or had their conviction overturned. In this instance, no statewide form is available. As a result, a petitioner may need to seek their local court for a form or hire a lawyer.

Under section 851.8, the petitioner must file within two years of an arrest or the filing of charges, whichever comes later. However, if the petitioner can demonstrate good cause, a court may entertain a late petition.

Sealing an Arrest Record Under Section 851.91

Section 851.91 allows arrested but not convicted adults of sealing their records. The law applies in situations like:

  • No charges despite the arrest
  • Dropped criminal charges
  • The individual in the record was found not guilty after a trial.
  • Dismissed charges after an individual completed a diversion program.
  • The charges were dropped when an appeal reversed a conviction.

With Form CR-409, people who qualify can ask the court to seal their arrest and related records. You can check this instruction on how to file a petition to seal an arrest under section 851.91.

According to section 851.92 of the California Penal Code, sealing or destroying an arrest record conceals it from the public. It permits a person to claim that they have never been arrested for a crime. However, if the record only underwent sealing, the individual must still report arrests on documents like the public office or state/local license applications.

To know other ways to seal an arrest record in California, you can look at the state judiciary's Sealing Juvenile Records and Record Cleaning web pages. You can also visit the Frequently Asked Questions page of the Office of the Public Defender in San Diego County.

How To Search California Arrest Records?

The local police department or sheriff's office where the arrest occurred is the first place to look for an arrest record in the state. Before searching for a California Arrest Record, it is best to contact the appropriate agency or visit its official website since there's no government-operated arrest search system all over the state.

Also, each agency has its unique process for requesting an arrest record in California. Some offices, like the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department, have forms you can download and send through mail, email, or in person. Some, like the San Diego County Sheriff's Department, have online platforms where you can fill out forms and send them in.

Others may need a personal visit before providing records. On some sheriff's websites, you may also be able to find out about recent arrests.

Other Way To Obtain Information From a California Arrest Record

Some parties may request a local police agency's criminal history record in addition to an arrest record. This kind of record has more detailed information about an arrest. However, only those with an arrest record, some employers and regulatory entities, law enforcement, and others approved by sections 11105 and 13300 can utilize it.

You can obtain these records from local law enforcement agencies or the California Department of Justice for a complete picture of a person's arrest history.

To get California Arrest Records, you typically need the arrestee's full name, case number, date of birth, date of arrest, or booking number to process your request. If you are not the record holder, you must also give your personal information, like your full name, phone number, mailing address, and a valid photo ID.

Note that copies are subject to a cash, check, or money order charge

Counties in California

Jails and Prisons in California

Costa Mesa Jail99 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa, CA
Cypress Jail5275 Orange Avenue, Cypress, CA
Irvine Jail1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA
Fullerton Jail237 West Commonwealth Avenue, Fullerton, CA
La Habra Jail150 North Euclid Street, La Habra, CA
La Palma Jail7792 Walker Street, La Palma, CA
Huntington Beach Jail2000 Main Street, Huntington Beach, CA
Buena Park Jail6640 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA
Anaheim Jail425 South Harbor Boulevard, Anaheim, CA
Garden Grove City Jail11301 Acacia Parkway, Garden Grove, CA