criminal court records

Introduction

When a prosecutor formally charges a person with a crime a criminal court case is generated.

In cases involving California law, a person is formally charged with a crime by a county district attorney in a county superior court.

For federal cases, a U.S. Attorney's Office will file charges in a U.S. district court.

Criminal court records are presumed open to public inspection, unless a judge has granted a motion by the prosecutor or the defense attorney requesting that some of the records be sealed.

Portions of documents filed in criminal court records that contain personal information about people may also be "redacted" or edited out by a county clerk to protect a person's privacy or safety.

The other instance in which criminal court records often are not open to the public is when the person charged is a juvenile.

Court procedures vary from state to state and between state and federal courts. But they share many of the same general characteristics.

This guide describes for reporters what court documents are available in California criminal cases, and also provides a summary of federal courts.

This is not intended as a legal guide or a guide to criminal law. Court procedures are only described so reporters can better understand what kinds of records are filed in court cases and when those records become available during the criminal court process.

Filed under: Public Records