The workings of the criminal justice system can be somewhat daunting to the uninitiated. However, it is very simple to get the basic information one is looking for regarding a criminal trial and its outcome. This information is public record and can usually be received with little trouble.
Find the criminal division. There is usually a placard on the wall inside the courthouse describing where the divisions are housed. Ask the security guards or any police officers you may find there if necessary.
Know the case title (State of California v. John Doe) and the case number if possible. Knowing at least the defendant's name, the date the case was heard or the date of judgment will narrow the search down if you don't know the case name and number.
Ask the filing clerk if you can see the case you are looking for. You may have to order the file out of storage, so you may have to come back on at a later date.
Get copies if needed. If you want a copy of any of the paperwork, the court will usually allow it, but for a per page fee. Some courts will tell you to mark the pages you want copies of and then copy them for you.
Give the file back to the filing clerk, retrieve your license and pay your copy fees.
- Most courthouses have metal detectors and security measures that you must go through to get into the courthouse. Be prepared to spend a little extra time going through security.
- These are just general guidelines. Each court has its own rules. Follow what the clerk tells you and you will be fine.
- In many courthouses, the clerk will ask you to surrender your driver's license before they give you the file or limit access to the file to a designated room. This is a way to ensure that you do not walk away with the file.
- Paperwork in a file is usually filed with the most recent paperwork on top and the original filing on the bottom. The Judgment will tell you the outcome of the trial. The Sentencing (or similarly named document) will tell you what the "punishment" is if the person was found guilty. It is possible that the sentence may not be in the file yet, as sentencing does not always happen the same day as judgment is passed.