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Frequently Asked Questions - Public Records

What is a Public Records Ombudsman?

An official appointed to assist private citizens access California Department of Justice's public information, per the California Public Records Act. Find out more in guidelines, pdf for accessing public records maintained by the California Department of Justice.

Can I obtain records of other state agencies or local government agencies from the DOJ Public Records Ombudsman?

No, please contact the agency directly. Our department cannot assist you with obtaining records from other government agencies.

Can I obtain information from DOJ through the Freedom of Information Act?

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law that is not applicable to requests for records of a state agency. As a result, we construe requests made under FOIA as inquiries under the California Public Records Act, the law which is applicable to California state government agency records. The Public Records Act is contained in Government Code section 6250 et seq.

Can DOJ help me obtain records from a state or local government agency that has denied my request?

No, the DOJ generally cannot assist you in retrieving records from another agency. However, the Public Records Act provides several “judicial” remedies for persons who believe that they have been wrongfully denied records to which they are entitled. (Gov. Code sections 6258 and 6259.) Absent special circumstances, the Legislature did not envision an enforcement role for the Attorney General in connection with noncompliance under the Act. You may wish to consult with a private attorney to evaluate your options. We are not in a position to perform legal research or to provide legal advice on behalf of individual members of the public or private clients.

Can I obtain records of complaints against businesses?

As a law enforcement agency, the Attorney General's Office does not release information on consumer complaints that involve as-yet-unproven allegations that could create misleading and unfair impressions about a company. Our Consumer Law Section uses these consumer complaints to look for patterns of deceptive or unfair business practices where legal action brought by the Attorney General could serve the interest of the general public. You may be able to learn about consumer complaints about the company by contacting the Better Business Bureau where the company is located or doing business.

How can I obtain corporate records for business entities, such as Corporations and Limited Liability Corporations, and Limited Partnerships?

Please contact the Secretary of State’s Office or by calling (916) 657-5448.

Can DOJ assist me with my claim for unclaimed property held by the State?

Information on unclaimed property turned over to the State of California by banks, businesses and other organizations is available from the Controller.

How can I obtain records from a homeowners’ association?

How do I get certified copies of vital records (i.e., birth and death certificates, marriage license, divorce decree, etc.)?

Please contact the California Department of Public Health, Office of Vital Records or by calling (916) 445-2684.

Does DOJ have copies of wills submitted to the Probate Court?

No, neither our office nor any other State office routinely maintains copies of wills and trusts. We suggest that you contact the attorney who prepared the will or trust. If the estate has already been probated, contact the Probate Court in the county where the death occurred or where the assets are primarily located.

Can I get a copy of a court transcript from DOJ?

No, you may not acquire transcripts of oral proceedings in the Superior Court from the DOJ. Government Code section 69954 requires that transcripts of oral trial court proceedings be acquired from the court reporter, and not from another government agency that may possess the transcript. The Court Reporter's Office and/or the Clerk of the Court of the county in which the proceedings were held may be able to assist you in locating and acquiring court transcripts. This provision does not apply to deposition transcripts or the clerk’s records of official litigation events which is called a “clerk’s transcript.”

Where can I get information on Missing Persons?

Information on missing persons.

How can I locate a friend or relative in California?

For assistance in locating someone in California, you may wish to use the following resources:

Family Member Search
Salvation Army Missing Persons Locator Service
180 East Ocean Blvd.
Long Beach, CA 90802
Phone: (800) 698-7728
Website: salvationarmy.org

Birth, Death & Marriage Records
California Department of Public Health
Office of Vital Records – MS 5103
P.O. Box 997410 Sacramento, CA 95899-7410
Phone: (916) 445-2684
Website: cdph.ca.gov

Last Employer Search
Social Security Administration
OEO FOIA Workgroup
300 N. Greene Street
P.O. Box 33022
Baltimore, Maryland 21290-3022
Website: socialsecurity.gov

Can I find whether I am eligible to purchase a firearm?

Yes. You may request that the Department of Justice conduct a firearms eligibility background check by submitting a Personal Firearms Eligibility Check (PFEC) application to the Department of Justice. For more information about how to request a PFEC, please visit the Bureau of Firearms Frequently Asked Questions. PFEC applications are available from the bureau's website and from your local firearms dealer.

Can I find out whether someone else is eligible to purchase a firearm?

In most cases, no. State law prohibits persons or agencies from requesting or requiring another person to have a PFEC conducted. (Penal Code section 12077.5, subd. (g).) Although DOJ maintains the Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS), a database listing persons who purchased handguns, registered assault weapons or obtained licenses to carry concealed weapons and later became prohibited from possessing and purchasing firearms, information in the APPS database is only available to law enforcement. (Penal Code 12010, subd. (b).)

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