For the public’s information, CA public records are the public’s property and as such, it is the right of every individual to access the reports. Under the CPRA or the California Public Records Act, public records are any writings (such as but not limited to – handwritten, typed, photocopied, e-mailed and recordings) that any government agencies has in their possession and concerning the public. The CPRA was enacted to ensure that employees of the State, the local agencies and other government entities are held accountable. All records are open to the public during the working hours of the government office where the request is to be made.

According to the State of California Government Code 6250, records considered public include the following: (a) any writing that the government conducts for the public and has retained in its keeping regardless of its form and (b) all records kept in the Governor’s office on or after January 6, 1975. Record samples are obtainable from the following entities – (1) the State’s different agencies such as bureaus, departments, divisions and commission offices, (2) counties or municipalities (3) from school districts and (4) local public agencies. (CA Gov. Code Sec. 6252)

Although the State of California made access to public records a right for every individual, there are certain records that are excluded from the public. These records, according to the Government code 6255, are records of which the public disclosure is detrimental to the public interest and thus are restricted. Aside from this, other exclusions include the following: (a) reports or records that are pending litigation, (b) records that would constitute to invasion of one’s privacy, (c) memoranda or drafts (d) banking regulations, (e) records by law enforcement agencies which include intellectual and confidential information, (f) records pertaining to tax information, (g) employee relations, (h) library circulation report and (i) internal security report. The personal information of the State’s employees is also restricted from the public and only accessible by the State’s agent as pursuant to Sec. 6254.3 (a) of the government code.

To obtain a copy of the record requested, the person requesting can phone, email, mail or view the records. Each department or bureau has their own guidelines on filling up forms or making requests. The Law mandates the state agencies to respond to the request within ten days from the day the request was made. Payment of fees also differ depending on the agency where one is requesting the public records although the State only mandates the agencies to charge the person requesting the records for direct cost of photocopying the records.

In certain cases, the agency might not be able to accommodate the request made. Some reasons that the agency might give to the person requesting the information would be – (a) records are located in different office, (b) the request volume would require longer time to finish, (c) the reports would need to be discussed with other departments before being released and (d) the reports might require computer expertise to be retrieved.

Government public records are important as these contain valuable information. Death records, birth and marriage records are some of the necessary reports that one might need. To access the records without having to go to the State agencies, one can check out sites that do offer record searches for free or for a minimal amount. Information is readily available and for those who need the information fast, this is the easiest way to do so.

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