Sacramento County is now following a trend of the many other counties (most notably Los Angeles County) and effective July 1, 2014 it will charge for access to on-line court records. I expect that the same will shortly be true for the County Recorder’s records as well.
You can go to https://services.saccourt.ca.gov/ for the specifics involved in researching what was once freely available access to public records. In the meantime here is a copy from the Court’s web site regarding what you can expect to pay.
A public access fee will be charged when searching for cases by name. In order to conduct a name search, you must first create an account then purchase the desired number of name searches. The fees are as follows:
- $1.00 for one (1) name search
- $3.50 for five (5) name searches
- $25.00 for 75 name searches
- $250.00 for 30 consecutive days of unlimited name searches
- $2,500.00 for 365 consecutive days of unlimited name searches
There are no refunds for unused name search credits. Name search credits do not expire, with the exception of the 30- and 365-day name search options.
One of the negative byproducts of reduced budgets is that the waiting time to order records at the Sacramento County Court’s Family Law section is that you can easily wait three (3) hours to just to order a file. If that file in in archives then you have to return in seven to eight working days and wait another three hours to get your hands on it.
In order to reduce the waiting you can now order a case on-line at http://www.saccourt.ca.gov/family/records.aspx.
When you get to this page you can compare the case number for the file you want to order the list of files that are currently on the shelves. For those of you who might be looking up cases at the on-line case index, the following cases numbers are not in archives.
Case numbers beginning with the following are located at the courthouse and do not have to be pre-ordered:
- 11AD, 12AD, 13AD
- 08FL, 09FL, 10FL, 11FL, 12FL, 13FL
- 12DV, 13DV
- 12CP, 13CP
- 10FS, 11FS, 12FS, 13FS
My next class at the Learning Exchange on how to find anything on anybody will be on September 19th, 2013. I hope to see you there.
For detailed information check out this link.
Here is something to remember if you are going to the courthouse to review files.
IT IS A FELONY TO REMOVE ANY DOCUMENTS FROM A FILE.
When you take out a case file for review in Sacramento County the clerks will generally tell that you cannot remove anything from the file. There will also be signs posted in viewing areas. Most often I see people taking apart a file at the copying machines while the sign looms directly in front of them. Don’t do it!
The court doesn’t want you to mess up the files and those of us who regularly go through files don’t want you to either. The reason is that was don’t want things to end up missing or to be put back in the wrong order. Generally, documents are entered into the files in chronological order. In some cases, certain types of documents are placed on one side in particular (Law & Motion documents for example. If the documents are out-of-order when you put them back in, it can really mess up an accurate review of the contents and make life more difficult for anyone who gets the file next.
In addition, files may have sealed documents. You cannot open the sealed envelopes, even if you are a party to the case. (I have held them up to the light in the hope that I might glimpse something really useful, but that has yet to work.)
If you are having trouble figuring out how to make copies, ask a clerk or a bike messenger. Anyone standing behind you at the copiers who searches through files as part of their job will be glad to instruct you. The sooner you get your business sorted out, the sooner we can take care of what we are there to do.
In the event that a document is loose and falls out of a file, just let the clerk know when you return it. It happens and they appreciate the opportunity to fix it up.
From all of us who do this sort of thing for a living, thank you.
Just about the only thing you can count on when searching for information through access to public records is that there is little if any consistency. Shrinking state and municipal budgets have an obvious impact on your access to public records.
Entities that got into setting up sophisticated on-line access to information early will no doubt be able to continue to do. However, there is not guarantee that will be the case. While Sacramento County continues to maintain some of the best on-line services that I have worked with, the San Joaquin County Court (Stockton, CA) shut down its on-line index in the last year or so. Initially the site posted a notice that it was complying with State rules regarding limiting access to birth, death and marriage records. That excuse made no sense because all the other California Counties did not seem to share that interpretation. It seemed to be a matter of cost and only one of cost. Now a search of San Joaquin County Court records requires a trip to the courthouse in Stockton. In the past, such a trip would be avoided. Now you have to find time during the work week to conduct an in person search just to see if there any files that may be of interest.
Here in Sacramento County, access to records has been reduced by cuts to the number of staff working in the records departments of the County Courts. The most noticeable effects appear in the Family Law Records Department. A recent effort to gain access to a file took six (6) hours. The first three were spent waiting in line to order a file that was stored in archives. Seven (7) days later when the file was available, another three (3) hours were spent waiting in line to get the file, review its six or so pages of material and return it. The reason for the delay is simply explained by the presence of fewer people working behind the counter.
One other example of how access to information is becoming limited due to budget constraints appears in Los Angeles County, where you have to set up a credit card account to gain access to the on-line case index. If you don’t have a credit card, you need to drive to one the several court houses in LA County and do the your search the old-fashioned way, by hand.
In each of these cases reduced access is not the result of re-characterizing the status of a document, it is simply the result of tougher economic times.