Written By Digital Content Editor Thomas Ahearn
On September 29, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 1262 (SB 1262), legislation that would have changed superior court rules and may have provided “a more convenient process for companies conducting commercial background checks,” according to a veto message from Governor Newsom.
Introduced by California State Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), SB 1262 would have required publicly accessible electronic indexes of defendants in criminal cases to permit searches based on a defendant’s Date of Birth (DOB) or Driver’s License Number (DLN) or both. Governor Newsom explained why he vetoed the bill:
To the Members of the California State Senate:
I am returning Senate Bill 1262 without my signature.
This bill would change superior court rules to allow publicly accessible electronic court criminal indexes to be searched with a subject’s driver’s license number or date of birth.
This bill would override a 2021 appellate court decision and current court rules that strike a fair balance between public access to court records, public safety, and an individual’s constitutional right to privacy. While this bill may provide for a more convenient process for companies conducting commercial background checks, it would also allow any member of the public to easily access individuals ‘ sensitive personal information online.
For these reasons, I cannot sign this bill.
After the May 2021 decision in All of Us or None – Riverside Chapter vs. W. Samuel Hamrick, Clerk, California superior courts have been removing the Date of Birth search field from their online portals and their public-access terminals in the court houses, causing a severe impact on the background screening process.
The Professional Background Screening Association (PBSA) – a non-profit organization that represents the background screening industry – supported SB 1262 “because the only identifier remaining on the publicly available record is often name, which is not enough to conclude that the record is about any specific person.”
Background screening companies that conduct criminal background checks usually search court records for a Date of Birth or Driver’s License Number along with the subject’s name so they can be sure they are looking at the right records to comply with accuracy requirements under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
“The removal of this and other important identifiers from search databases significantly impairs background screening professionals to accurately confirm the identity of prospective employees or residents. Accurate background checks are essential in ensuring your place of employment, children and community are safe.”
A survey titled “Background Screening: Trends in the U.S. and Abroad” released in August 2021 by the PBSA and HR.com indicated that criminal background checks were the most common type of background screening used by employers with 93 percent of those surveyed responding they relied on that method of screening.
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