Accessing Court Case Files
Court case files are public records and subject to public inspection. California Rules of Court, rule 2.400(a) states that all papers in the court files may be inspected by the public in the office of the clerk. Rule 2.550(a) says that unless confidential or sealed by law, all court records are presumed open.
Follow the instructions below to locate the case number for the file you are interested in viewing. Depending on the case type and age, once you have located the case number and court location, there are number of ways to obtain a copy of a court record.
Case register of actions for Civil and Probate cases filed after Jan 1, 2007. Some documents available for purchase.
Case register of actions for Family Law cases. Some documents can be purchased online and mailed.
Locating a Court File
Generally, you can locate information regarding a court file either via the court's online case search or by going to the court location where the case was tried. Please refer to the information below for details by case type.
Traffic and Minor Offense Files
If you are searching for records of vehicle code violations, some local municipal ordinances, or infractions, you need to call or go to the court facility where your case was tried. These files are not available online.
Traffic and minor offense records are stored at the court facility only for a short time before being housed at an off-site location. It could take several days to retrieve the records and a fee is charged to retrieve records from storage.
In most cases, infraction records are destroyed after three years, misdemeanor traffic records are destroyed after five years and DUI (misdemeanors) are destroyed after 10 years.
Files from Pre-1974 / Archived Records: To find an older or archived record you must go to the court location where the case was tried. The court's Central Division Older Records has case indexes dating from 1880 to mid-1974. Indexes from 1880 to 1964 are in large, hardbound books. Post-1964 records are available on computer-generated indexes.
Can't find a court record? If court staff is unable to find the court file, the file may have been destroyed or purged pursuant to Government Code section 68152.
Juvenile Court Files
All Juvenile Court records are confidential. The minor, his or her parents or legal guardian(s), and attorneys of record may obtain copies of court minutes and selected court documents by appearing at the appropriate counter with photo identification. The records will not be mailed.
Pursuant to local rule, persons and agencies may inspect dependency records authorized by statute (Welfare and Institutions Code section 827) without obtaining a court order. The right to inspect such records includes the right to view them and obtain copies.
Other individuals must file a Petition For Disclosure of Juvenile Court Records (JC Form # JV-570. The completed form may be presented in person or by mail but must contain an original signature. If the petition is granted, viewing and/or obtaining copies may be done only by appearing in person with proper photo identification. Copies of records will not be mailed.
Small Claims Files
Requests for copies, tapes or CDs can be made in person at the courthouse where the record is located or by mailing a request for copies to the office where the record is located, along with appropriate fee.
The court retains Small Claims files for the following length of time:
- Electronic recordings - Retained for seven years following disposition of the case - OP 7.1.
- Case files that are voluntary dismissals by a party without entry of judgment - One year per Government Code section 68152(d)(2)
- Case files after final disposition - 10 years per Government Code section 68152(c)(11)
Court proceedings are a matter of public record. However, the court has the power to seal court records. When a judge seals a record, the public is prevented from viewing specified files or documents without first obtaining a court order.
If you cannot find the court record you are searching for, it may be because it has been purged or destroyed. The San Diego Superior Court routinely purges court records pursuant to Government Code section 68153 and under the timelines set by Government Code section 68152 for each case type.
Off-site Storage/Retrieval Fee
Because of limited space, many case files are stored at an off-site location after a certain amount of time. If the case for which you are searching for is housed away from a court facility, there is a retrieval charge that is due and collected at the time the request is made. Please refer to the Records-Related Fees on the current fee schedule for retrieval costs.