Public Records: Obtainment and Restrictions

Have you ever wondered what a public record is or how to find them?

“Public Records” are any form of writing that pertains to the public’s business prepared, owned, used or retained by any agency, state or local, regardless of characteristics or physical form. The California Public Records Act (CPRA) mandates that public records, except those “exempt by law”, must be available to the public. Since there is no standard way to obtain public records, it is best to go to the agency that holds the information you are seeking and ask them how to get the records.

Types of Public Records Based on Agency

Law Enforcement

Occupation and full name of every individual arrested by the agency.

The Individual’s physical description. (Namely, DOB, eye color, hair, sex, height, and weight).

Time and manner of release.

Place where individual is currently being held.

Time and date of arrest and booker.

Location of arrest and facts surrounding it.

Charges causing the individual to be held. (including probation or warrants).

The public can access the names, addresses or zip codes of certain registered sex offenders. See for more info.


The coroner inquires into specific deaths and determines if the death was caused by a criminal act. The coroner’s report on an autopsy is called a protocol. This protocol is open to the public at the coroner’s office.


Very limited facts are given on convictions. Facts are available for a DUI for 10 years. Two-point violations are available for 7 years. Facts on accidents and all other violations are available for 3 years.

Information on driver’s license suspensions and revocations up to three years after the end of the action.

Very limited registration records are public records.


Some complaints against public employees are accessible by the public.

Grand jury transcripts are available 10 days after delivery to the defendant unless exempt by the court.

Some prisoner and inmate records are available to the public and also most counties have a web-based locator for inmates/prisoners to show the public where they are being held.



This blog was researched and written by Seneca Law Group Intern Noah Basil and Edited by Attorney Mike Runkle. It is meant to be informative in nature and nothing contained in it is meant to be legal advice or create an attorney client relationship. If you or a loved one need an experienced attorney to help obtain records for your personal injury, criminal defense or Bankruptcy case or would like more information about obtaining, sealing or expunging records please contact Seneca Law Group today by calling (619) 630-8529 or E-mail us at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *