California, like many states, has a number of laws that help to assert what constitutes public records, and to also help ease public access to such documents. That said, most people don’t even know the extent of the types of records you can actually find. For most documents, the search is as easy as visiting a local courthouse, or even searching the CA.gov website. This article isn’t an extensive guide on research methods, but rather an exhaustive list of the types of records available to the public.
Records at this level are largely to help keep tabs on government officials and goings on at the state level.
You can find things like audits records of various government offices, budget records for any public office, and “cash flow” records from the treasury. Furthermore, you can find the contracts that the state government has undertaken on things like public improvement projects; work done on public roadways or government buildings fall under this category. Property records and inventories can also be read through.
Any laws and bills that are or were in the state legislature at any time can also be viewed by the public. By extension, you can view lobbyist and donation records for various state level campaigns. Finally, all rosters and salaries of state offices are part of the public record. Even un-salaried or smaller positions can be sifted through via the state employee search database.
Business and Labor
Organizations like the Better Business Bureau are tasked with keeping tabs on private businesses which don’t fall under the umbrella of public records/freedom of information act laws. You are able to access ratings and feedback on various businesses in California through these records. You can also find licensing information for various doctors and practitioners in the area in order to evaluate credentials.
Crime and Courts
The court system public records are generally separate from state held archives, but the CA.gov website will help direct you to the correct link (court case records are held in the courthouse archives with jurisdiction for that specific area). Other crime and court records you can find include court opinions and the registered sex offender database.
Demographics & Vitals
Vital records are public record at both the state and federal level, and include birth and death certificates; this includes all data collected as part of the US census. Other health records are also available, including various statistics and reports on outbreaks, medical research, and more.
Information on realtors, including their granted licenses can be found here. Details on unclaimed property and how to search for it is also available to the public.
The final category of public records has to do with review and oversight committees. The Bureau of State Audits, Law Revision Commission, Cost Control Advisory and more can be found under this section on the government’s website.