As “Dragnet” police officer Joe Friday used to say, “Just the facts ma’am.” Well, not so much in the City of Angels. Earlier this month, the Superior Court of Los Angeles County announced changes to its criminal name searches causing the screening of applicants from the area to be difficult. The Superior Court will no longer allow background check providers to search databases using the month and year of a person’s birth. This change is expected to impact criminal record searches in Los Angeles County.

The announcement occurred following a May 2021 decision in the case of All of Us or None v. Hamrick. The California Court of Appeal declared those searching through public criminal records could no longer use birthdates or driver’s license numbers. California’s courts then promptly removed the birthdate fields from their online search platforms.

There was an attempt to create legislation to restore the data to public availability, but the governor vetoed the attempt, insisting the update was an appropriate protection of a citizen’s privacy.

GroupOne Background Screening clients should know the court’s decision could seriously affect screenings in Los Angeles County. Without birthdate or driver’s license info, it will be difficult to distinguish between individuals with the same name. The announcement also noted criminal name search engines would not allow partial date of birth info. In other words, if we’re looking for “John Smith,” it’s going to take some time.

The issues of identification of an individual will be extreme, with criminal records especially difficult. Potential job candidates with records in the Los Angeles County justice system should anticipate delays when obtaining results. Employers should also be aware of the risk of incomplete data due to the changes in the court systems.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires background checks to use additional identifiers beyond a person’s name. This ensures the individual is the actual defendant in criminal cases. Thus, some searches will be difficult to complete. Needless to say, numerous background screening companies have protested this frustrating development.

Hiring individuals with incomplete background checks is never a good idea. Candidates from Los Angeles County, and especially employers from across the state, will face challenges. Companies that hire independent contractors in California should brace for a significant slowdown in background checks. Temporary staffing agencies will also have issues.

Employers rely on screening companies such as GroupOne for criminal background checks, and we rely on index-based searches to source criminal records, including serious felonies. So, finding “just the facts” in Los Angeles County could be a tough case to crack.