People seeking background checks at SLO court may have to wait

San Luis Obispo Superior Court officials have stopped immediate window service for those seeking bulk criminal background information.

Citing budget and time constraints on staff, the court issued a notice saying those seeking the criminal records of lists of people must submit their requests in writing either at the counter or by mail.

The court will process the requests on a first-come, first-serve basis and notify people when their request is ready for pickup.

Background checkers — who typically sell the information they collect to companies that screen job applicants — vocally opposed the court’s decision in March to shut down a public computer terminal that contained criminal record information, saying that hindered their work.

But court officials said they removed the terminal because of privacy concerns with the outdated system that was revealing privileged information, and they had concerns with how that information might be used.

The decision to close the terminal led background contractors to seek the data from clerks at service windows, where clerks reviewed and redacted certain information released to background checkers. They were limited to five names per day, but the checkers were hiring people to help them stand in line.

Research that takes more than 10 minutes now will carry a charge of $15 and copies from court files or dockets will cost 50 cents per page.

The court is looking into a long-term solution with a case management computer system that would provide remote access to permitted criminal information, but that won't come to fruition for some time, officials say.