Court records can be either civil or criminal, however both summarize all the events which occurred during the court date or dates. Court records are public in nature, therefore anyone can request access to the records. A criminal court record is known as a docket, which shows a series of checked boxes and arrows detailing events related to the criminal proceedings. Some states and cities have criminal court records online, however the process for getting all court records, across the nation, viewable online is a slow one.
Accessing a Case Number Online, or Via the San Diego Courthouse
In the city of San Diego, you can access the case number and location online for certain cases, or you can go to the downtown San Diego Courthouse, and, once there, can look up a particular case, along with every document filed for the case. These documents can include motions, sentencing arguments, and every other document filed for the case.
No Photographs of Public Documents
The inspection of public documents is governed by California Rules of Court, Rule 2.400(a), which states that all papers associated with a court file can be inspected by the public in the office of the clerk. Under Rule 2.550(a), unless a court record is considered confidential or “sealed,” it will be presumed to be public. You may not take photographs of any court records or use any digital device to capture an image of a court record while in the courthouse.
Asking for Copies of Court Records
You may, however, obtain a copy of a court record through following certain procedures. (You cannot ask for an electronic or faxed copy of the record or records you want from The San Diego Superior Court) You can obtain a copy of a court record in person, or by mailing a request for copies to the officer where the record is located. Either of these will require a fee, and if you request copies in person, you must request them at least thirty minutes prior to the time the court closes for the day.
Looking Up the Case Number
If you lack the case number, you can look it up using the person’s name on the public computers located in some courts. If you need to find an older case (from 1880 through 1964) you will need to go to Central Records, located at 220 West Broadway, which also houses more recent civil, criminal mental health, domestic, probate, wills and Habeas Corpus files. If you go to the court in person, you will need to fill out the required court form, and show a valid driver’s license or other form of valid photo ID. The court staff will copy your ID, and keep it on file.
No Removing, Destroying or Altering Court Records
Files cannot be removed from the court, and anyone who willfully removes court documents, destroys court documents or alters a court record may be subject to penalties such as imprisonment in the state penitentiary or county jail for up to one year and/or a fine up to $1,000. In addition to finding court records, you can a background check on another person at the courthouse at no charge. If you are trying to get a future court date, you can get this information from the court clerk, or you can look it up on the San Diego Sheriff’s website or the website of the San Diego district attorney. Unfortunately, the court website is somewhat notorious for having information which has not been updated or is flat out incorrect.
Getting Help Obtaining San Diego Court Records from a San Diego Attorney
If you need to obtain your own court records or those of another person, and you are hesitant about doing it on your own, you might consider talking to a San Diego attorney who can steer you in the right direction, and help you obtain the records in the simplest manner.