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Crime Q&A: Why does Sacramento Superior Court charge a fee to look up cases online?

Q: Why does Sacramento Superior Court charge a fee to look up cases online? Most other counties provide this service for free.

Lori, Galt

A: When the Sacramento Superior Court began charging for online access to court records in July 2014, court officials said years of lean budgets made it necessary to charge a fee to offset the cost of maintaining the online access system.

They said they were following the lead of other court systems, such as the federal courts, which require people to establish an account for online searches for case information.

Previously, anyone could search the Sacramento Superior Court’s civil and criminal court files for free to obtain basic information in criminal cases, such as hearing dates and outcomes, as well as pending charges, or to get detailed copies of documents in civil cases.

Criminal case information can be accessed online via searches using the name, case number or the defendant’s XREF number. Those using the online name searches or downloading documents must establish an online account and pay a public access fee.

However, you can search for criminal case information using case or XREF numbers, if you know them, without establishing an account or incurring a charge.

If the defendant is in Sacramento County Jail, you can search the for individual’s name by clicking on the “Inmate Information” link on the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department’s website. The information will include the XREF number, which can be used to search for basic case information on the court’s website without paying a fee

You can also go to the courthouse and access case information online through one of the court’s kiosks free of charge. A fee is charged if printed copies are requested.

Cathy Locke: 916-321-5287, @lockecathy

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