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Members of the public looking to view Riverside County Superior Court criminal records online must now pay to access them, with services previously available free of charge being canceled depending on the outcome of a lawsuit against the court.
Earlier this week, the court closed its free portal, saying the action followed a decision by the California Fourth District Court of Appeals.
The Superior Court continues to provide access to electronic criminal records, but through a pay wall that requires the purchase of “research credits” to find defendants using either a case number or a name.
Civil status documents can continue to be consulted free of charge using a file number.
“We are trying to work on a process to balance access to justice, respect for the opinion of the District Court of Appeal and cost recovery,” said Superior Court spokeswoman Marita. Ford, at City News Service.
It costs between $ 1 and $ 25 to purchase research credits, depending on how many searches a user wants to complete.
The civil lawsuit was filed in 2016 by a prisoners ‘advocacy organization, All of Us or None, which accused the Superior Court of compromising the defendants’ personal information by allowing the search criteria to include either a driver’s license number. , or a date of birth.
Under a system implemented in 2010, the driver’s license number or date of birth could be entered in search fields along with a case number to find information about the accused.
For years, the documents included minutes to allow users to see all relevant summaries of what happened during the hearings. However, this was eliminated in 2013 due to cited privacy concerns under California Court Rules 2.507.
The Superior Court then narrowed down the online views to case logs – a summary of actions listing dates and types of hearings – with the names and charges against available defendants, along with a cross-reference book of ‘other cases involving the same parties.
All or none of us argued that allowing the use of dates of birth and driver’s license numbers to initiate a search was a violation of Rule 2.507 and sections of the government code. A trial court dismissed the allegations, noting that details had not been published in the electronic criminal index.
As the Superior Court prosecutors pointed out, “the plaintiffs dispute the fact that a person who already knows the date of birth of an individual can use this information to search the index”.
“Nothing in rule 2.507 prevents the court from allowing users who already know an individual’s date of birth to include that data point as a method of searching the database,” according to the defendants’ brief submitted. to the court of appeal.
Criminal complaints usually include the accused’s date of birth.
The plaintiffs replied that state law prohibited any entry of sensitive personal information “as part of the data to be used as a search query.”
The appeal court accepted the argument. However, the judicial panel did not declare specific corrective measures, but instead referred the case back to the trial court last month for resolution.
The Superior Court Executive Office staff responded by removing the free search option altogether.
There is no requirement under Rule 2.507, or the other guidance provision for electronic court records, Rule 2.503, which charges a fee for accessing records online.
The San Bernardino County Superior Court has maintained a free portal using name search criteria only for the past two decades. To access it, visitors must agree to the terms and conditions through an interface before being allowed to search.
Ford and other Riverside County Superior Court officials have said in the past that the electronic access fee is a way to raise funds to support the online database.
In the current fiscal year, the court’s budget has been slashed by 10% due to cutbacks during public health lockdowns, which impacted court operations statewide.
Ford said the Superior Court may recover the funds in the next fiscal year, which begins Thursday. But she was unsure whether the restoration would result in a change to the public web portal that would once again make some level of free online research available.
Fees now in effect for viewing Superior Court criminal records online was last modified: June 25, 2021 through
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