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California Criminal Records

Criminal records, also called rap sheets, are one of the most requested documents when doing a background check in California. It is a list of the crimes for which people were found guilty. Most California Criminal Records have the following details:

  • Personal information of the subject, like the full name (including known aliases), date of birth, and ethnicity
  • Photographs
  • Fingerprints
  • Physical description
  • Past and present indictments
  • Information about the conviction
  • Charges
  • Warrant and arrest details
  • Jail terms
  • Participation in any sexual offender registry

There are several purposes for criminal records in California. Among the most prevalent ones are for:

  • Clearance
  • Adoption
  • Employment
  • Background checks before the purchase of guns
  • School admissions, such as medical or law school
  • Voter registration
  • CDL (Commercial Driver's License) certification
  • Voter registration
  • Naturalization, travel visas, immigration, and international travel

Are California Criminal Records public? U.S. federal law makes criminal records accessible to the general public through government institutions and private groups. However, California state law restricts access to particular sections of a criminal history record to the agencies listed in Section 11105 of the California Penal Code.

What Are the Types of Crimes in California?

In California, a "crime" or "public offense" is often defined as a breach of the law. In the California Penal Code, here are the typical types of crimes in the state:

  • Domestic crimes
  • DUI crimes
  • Traffic crimes
  • Fraud or theft crimes
  • Drug crimes
  • Sex crimes
  • Weapon crimes
  • Violent crimes
  • White collar crimes
  • Federal crimes

Crimes in California fall into one of the following categories:


A California felony is the most severe sort of crime. It may result in the death penalty or life imprisonment in state prison. Some examples of these crimes include:

  • Murder
  • Lewd acts with a child under 14
  • Rape
  • Drug sales
  • Manslaughter by vehicle with gross negligence
  • First-degree burglary

Certain felonies in California carry a predetermined sentence of imprisonment if the offender is convicted. For instance, first-degree burglary is punishable by two, four, or six years in prison. Some crimes include minimum obligatory penalties, which mandate that the offender must serve a particular length of time in jail.

Also, a fine is part of the punishment for a felony in California. Sometimes the penalty is written into the law that asserts the crime. If there is no set amount, the judge can give a fine of up to $10,000.


A misdemeanor in California is a criminal violation with a maximum sentence of 364 days in county prison and a maximum fine of $1,000. These offenses are less severe than felonies. In California, there are two main types of misdemeanors, and these are:

Standard Misdemeanors

These criminal offenses can get you up to 6 months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. Some of the most common standard misdemeanors are as follows:

  • Drug possession
  • Petty theft
  • Drunk in public
  • First offense indecent exposure
  • Shoplifting
  • Prostitution
  • Trespassing

Gross or Aggravated Misdemeanors

Gross or aggravated misdemeanors are punishable by up to 364 days in prison, a minimum $1,000 fine, or both. Examples of these crimes include:

  • Driving on a suspended license
  • Domestic battery
  • Contravention of a restraining order
  • DUI without injury

Wobbler Crimes

These offenses in California are neither a felony nor a misdemeanor, but something in between. Typically, these actions are prosecuted as felonies or misdemeanors at the prosecutor's discretion. When reaching this assessment, the prosecutor often analyzes the specifics of the crime and the defendant's criminal history.

Examples of wobbler crimes in California Criminal Records are as follows:

  • Assault with a deadly weapon
  • Domestic violence
  • Forgery
  • Vandalism
  • Sexual battery

If it is a misdemeanor, up to one year in county imprisonment or a fine may be imposed. As a felony, it has a maximum sentence of three years in prison.


In the California justice system, infractions are a lesser violation than misdemeanors and felonies. Most of these offenses are traffic crimes. With these violations, a court can't put someone in jail. Most of the time, convicted people get fined (maximum of $250), fired, or kicked out of public office.

Some examples of California infractions are:

  • Speeding
  • Illegal U-turn
  • Running a red light
  • Parking violations

How Does Probation Work in California?

Probation is an alternative to incarceration for certain offenders in the judicial system of California. When someone gets probation from the court, they do not have to go to jail. Instead, they spend their time in prison being watched by the community.

In California, there are two types of probation: summary probation and formal or felony probation.

Summary probation is what you get for a misdemeanor, and it has fewer strict rules. On the other hand, crimes under felony are subject to formal probation, which has more stringent regulations. People usually mean formal probation when they talk about probation in this state.

Formal probation requires you to sign up with your county's Adult Probation Department and regularly meet with a probation officer. Summary probation, in contrast, does not.

As part of a plea deal, the prosecution and your California criminal attorney often agree to probation. In other circumstances, the court grants probation at the sentence.

Although probation often excludes prison time, this is not always the case. If a probation sentence involves prison time, it will be for a lesser duration than the maximum.

What Are the Probation Conditions in California?

In California, judges have broad authority in designing probation requirements. However, probation restrictions must always be fair and rationally tied to the crime for justice to be served.

Here are some of the typical conditions of probation in California:

  • Participate in either individual or group counseling
  • Pay penalties, legal expenses, and restitution to the victim
  • Complete rehabilitation treatments, including anger management
  • Seek profitable job
  • Complete community service or roadside work for Caltrans
  • Comply with a restraining order (for California domestic violence offenses)
  • Not operate a motor vehicle with any detectable level of alcohol or reject a blood or breath test for DUI (for California DUI probation)
  • Abstain from alcohol or drugs and enroll in treatment for substance addiction (for California DUI or certain California drug crimes)
  • Attend all court dates
  • Participate in random drug testing
  • No more arrests and violations committed

If you breach the conditions of your probation, the court will arrest and detain you in prison until a hearing to revoke your probation.

What Is the California Probation Period?

Summary probation usually lasts no longer than one year, and formal probation usually lasts between three and five years. If you have met the program requirements, you can ask the court to end your probation early.

Most of the time, you can only ask to get out of formal probation early after you've been doing well for 18 months. You also have to show that there are good reasons to end your probation early. For instance, if your lawyer has successfully demonstrated that you must travel for work, that could necessitate an early termination of your California felony probation.

Conversely, anyone can ask for summary or misdemeanor probation to end early at any time. Still, courts usually say no to such requests when domestic violence or drunk driving is involved.

How Does Parole Work in California?

People often mix up the words parole and probation. Probation is part of a person's sentence when they are found guilty and decided by the judge. It either shortens or eliminates the time a defendant spends in jail. On the other hand, California parole only works when a person is sent to state prison for a felony and doesn't go into effect until the person is out of jail.

All state prison inmates are eligible for parole, except those serving life sentences without the possibility of parole.

An individual condemned to a fixed term, such as seven years, will be paroled automatically. California parole is not automatic if sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole or 15 years to life. The state Board of Parole Hearings will first consider the individual's "suitability" for parole in a hearing.

How long are parole terms in California? The length of parole monitoring depends on the parolee's conviction. Some parole periods are as long as ten years, while others are as short as three. And those guilty of murder will have parole for life.

What Are the Parole Conditions in California?

Once granted parole, the "parolee" must agree to comply with certain restrictions and obligations. Among the most typical parole conditions are the following:

  • Consenting to a search at any moment, without a California search warrant or with one, for whatever purpose
  • Confirming registration with local authorities (for those required to register as sex offenders, to those guilty of arson, and those convicted of certain California drug crimes)
  • Consenting to reside inside specified county borders
  • Conditions relating to the individual crime, such as prohibitions on the use or possession of certain weapons, Internet access, and gang affiliation

The board will revoke parole if the convict refuses to sign and agree to follow parole requirements. Under these conditions, the convict will serve for a maximum of six months longer.

How Does Expungement Work in California?

Under PC1203.4/1203.4a, an expungement frees you from almost "all penalties and disabilities" related to the conviction.

If you complete the probation, you might be able to get rid of any felonies or misdemeanors on your record. To do this in California, you must ask the court to remove your charges in the California Criminal Records.

However, you cannot expunge severe sex offenses committed against children and, mostly, a conviction sentenced to state prison.

Fortunately, even if you were found guilty and sent to state prison, you might still clear your record in California. You qualify if you would have gone to jail for the crime after Proposition 47 Realignment in 2011.

A conviction cleared under California expungement will still appear on your official rap sheet. However, it will not show up on a background check of criminal records in California done by a private record search company. Thus, most employers will not see the expunged record.

How To Obtain a Criminal Record in California?

The California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) arranges criminal records in online depositories. These reports are available via law enforcement authorities as court documents on demand from the local clerk of courts.

If you need a copy of your criminal record, you must submit fingerprints and a processing fee in person to the CA DOJ. Live Scan fingerprints are necessary for all applicants in California. To get a Live Scan fingerprint, accomplish this form and send it to the Live Scan site for fingerprinting services.

Most sheriff's offices, local police departments, and any public applicant Live Scan site can help you get your fingerprints taken. You can use this court page to find out where you can get your fingerprints rolled, how much it costs, and how you can pay.

If you want a free California Criminal Records search, submit a fee waiver request.

If you need a background check for Visa/Immigration or other foreign country business, follow this instruction.

Can you look up someone's criminal record in California? The CA DOJ restricts criminal record searches to law enforcement agencies, certain employers, and the subject of the document. CA DOJ does not allow and process requests from third parties.

What Are the Criminal Background Check Laws in California?

Employers can legally do background checks in California. However, California law gives companies several restrictions and duties when they do them for employment purposes. 

Here are the primary criminal background check laws in California:

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Employers are subject to two requirements under the FCRA. Employers must get an applicant's written consent before conducting a criminal background check and notify the candidate if the employer rejects them based on the report.

This act only applies to employers that perform background checks via a third party. It does not apply to employers that conduct these checks internally.

California's Ban the Box Law

Most employers with five or more workers in California are not allowed to ask about a job candidate's criminal record before making an offer.

This law allows individuals with criminal records a greater chance of advancing through the application screening and interviewing phases of the employment process.

Employers must delete questions like "Check yes or no: Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" from application screening under the state ban-the-box rules. Instead of asking about an applicant's criminal background, companies should assess their suitability for the job.

The California Information Privacy Act (CIPA)

CIPA mirrors the federal FCRA. In this law, employers must also seek applicant authorization before doing a criminal history check.

If an employer does a background check in-house, the law requires the business to provide the applicant the choice to review the report and provide a copy if he requests it.

Fair Chance Ordinance of Los Angeles and San Francisco

Generally, the Fair Chance Ordinance bans regulated companies from inquiring about an individual's arrest or conviction records before making a conditional job offer.

Counties in California

Police Departments and Sheriffe Office in California

Orange County Sheriff's Office550 N Flower Street, Santa Ana, CA
Riverside County Sheriff's Office4095 Lemon Street, Riverside, CA
Alameda County Sheriff's Office1401 Lakeside Drive, 12th Floor, Oakland, CA
Sacramento County Sheriff's Office4500 Orange Grove Avenue, Sacramento, CA
Fresno County Sheriff's Office2200 Fresno Street, Fresno, CA
Kern County Sheriff's Office1350 Norris Road, Bakersfield, CA
Ventura County Sheriff's Office800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura, CA
Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office250 E Hackett Road, Modesto, CA
Sonoma County Sheriff's Office2796 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA
Tulare County Sheriff's Office833 S. Akers St., Visalia, CA