A California appellate court recently determined that Rule of Court 2.503 prohibits court clerks from making personal identifying data about criminal defendants available electronically.

In response, county court clerks have modified their public access terminals to remove the date of birth information. In some cases like Los Angeles, they have taken the additional step of limiting the number of case files that can be pulled and viewed in a day.

Personal identifiers are critical to the accurate matching of criminal records to your applicants. While we are taking measures to adapt to this new reality in California, we want you to be mindful that these restrictions limiting employers’ access to criminal history information will likely cause some delays. In certain counties, such as Los Angeles, you may notice that some searches will take significantly longer than usual.

CA Restrictions – More to Come?

California has always taken a more restrictive view on whether and to what extent criminal case files should be available to employers. For example, California prohibits background check reports from containing convictions older than seven years, and California labor law prohibits employers from considering non-conviction information.

For various public policy reasons, this trend toward restriction is expanding this year, with the state taking additional measures to limit further an employer’s access to criminal record case files. For example, Senate Bill 731, which is currently making its way through the legislature, would require criminal records to be sealed four years after release from prison.

Of course, we will continue to supply all felony and misdemeanor convictions from California, which we are legally permitted to provide. However, your prior experience of receiving all felony and misdemeanor convictions occurring in the last seven years will likely not continue for too much longer.

Efforts for Legislative relief

On a supplemental note, we want to make you aware that our industry’s trade association, the Professional Background Screening Association, is exploring various avenues of legislative relief to combat this public policy trend. At some point in the coming year, we may invite those employers with a significant presence in California to join us in sharing with California legislators the very good reasons for permitting access to criminal history information so that we as employers can make an informed and intelligent hiring decisions for the benefit and protection of the public, our customers, and our employees

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