Reading Your Rapsheet

There are various forms of criminal histories (better known as, rapsheets), such as: local court, California Department of Justice (DOJ), and FBI. These instructions are for reading a DOJ criminal history.

Your record is divided into five vertical columns


1. The left column contains the date of your arrest.


2. The second column lists the arresting agency.


3. Your name appears in the third column.


4. The fourth column contains the charges on which you were arraigned. The charges will be summarized by a phrase (example, “NARC CONT SUB FOR SALE.” which means “narcotic controlled substance for sale”). This column also lists the corresponding citation in the California Penal Code ( PC 220.21) and sometimes the category of the offense. The number of counts is included, along with the notation “ATTEMPTED” if the offense was not completed.


5. The fifth column on the right is the most important section of your file. It is supposed to indicate the correct outcome or disposition of your charges.

How to Correct Mistakes

DOJ will correct most mistakes on your record if you explain the mistakes and provide proof that your record is incorrect. Most mistakes can be fixed easily, without the help of an attorney. But the process takes some time, so start as early as you can.


If you think there is an error on your record, you must take the following steps:


1. Get an abstract of the judgment for the case from the court where the case was heard. An abstract is an official court record of the case that contains the docket number, arrest charges, disposition (dismissal, acquittal, or conviction), and disposition date. The abstract should have the correct information. If you disagree with the information, you will need a lawyer to look into it. The abstract of the judgment is official only if the seal of the court is pressed into the paper so that you can feel it if you run your finger over it.


Contact the court clerk in the court where your case was heard. Most non-traffic infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies are heard by the county superior courts. The second column of your record will indicate the county in which you were arrested. The superior court in that county will most likely have heard your case. The quickest way to get the abstract is to go to the clerk’s office in person. If you are incarcerated or cannot get to the court, you can write to the clerk’s office, but if may take several months for you to receive abstracts of the judgments in  your cases.


Whether you write or go in person, give the court clerk your name, any aliases you may have used, the date of your arrest, and the docket number of your case. This information should be on your record. If you cannot provide a docket number or arrest date, your name and the approximate date that the case was heard will probably be enough. The fee is $7 for the abstracts and $6 for the seal, so the total charge will be $13. The court may waive the fee if you were represented by a Legal Aid Society attorney or public defender, if you are incarcerated, or if you are on public assistance. Take identification when you go to the court to obtain records.


2. Send the original copy of the abstract and complete “Claim of Alleged Inaccuracy or Incompleteness” form to DOJ. You will receive a Claim of Alleged Inaccuracy or Incompleteness form along with your record from DOJ. This form is used to explain to DOJ why you think there is a mistake on your record and to request that DOJ correct the mistake.