In 2021, the state of California implemented a pivotal change regarding public access to certain details in criminal court records, notably excluding dates of birth from online databases. This adds a hurdle for background researchers conducting criminal record research on subjects of investigations. This amendment, codified under California Rules of Court, Rule 2.507, is primarily aimed at safeguarding the privacy of individuals involved in criminal cases. The initiative behind the enactment of the Date of Birth (DOB) redaction legislation is to offer offenders the opportunity to reintegrate into society without the burden of lingering stigma.

Following the establishment of this rule, courts in various counties across California have initiated the process of omitting dates of birth from their online criminal records database. This state-wide mandate necessitates compliance from all county courts within California, significantly altering the landscape of criminal record verification. The absence of DOB information complicates the process of accurately identifying individuals in criminal record searches in California counties, especially if the individual has a common name. Without the DOB to verify the identity of individuals, researchers are limited to only matching the name of the subject to criminal records. Because names are not unique, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) restricts the use of names alone for matching criminal records to individuals.

In light of these restrictions, background researchers are now often required to verify Personally Identifiable Information by conducting hand searches directly through the courts in each county. This typically involves in-person visits and direct coordination with court clerks to access information not available in online databases. This approach, while providing a potential pathway to obtaining necessary information, introduces delays,
unpredictability, and additional costs.

To mitigate these challenges and enhance the efficiency of criminal record searches, it is advisable for employers, claims examiners and legal professionals to adopt more thorough information-gathering practices. This includes the collection of additional identifiers, such as middle names, to refine search parameters. Furthermore, initiating investigations well in advance of critical deadlines is recommended, especially for subjects with a history in California, to ensure the best possible results without incurring unnecessary delays.

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