Reentry Legal Clinic How to read a DOJ rap sheet INTRODUCTION

How to read a DOJ rap sheet
Reentry Legal Clinic
How to read a DOJ rap sheet
How do you obtain a DOJ rap sheet? And once you do, how do you make sense of it?
Written By: Joshua Kim
A rap sheet from the California Department of Justice ("DOJ") is one of the most
comprehensive collections of one's California criminal records. (Non-California records are
usually not included on the DOJ rap sheet.) At the same time, the information contained in it
is also minimal--barely enough to fill out a petition for dismissal. Of particular problem is that
it generally does not contain much post-sentencing information, including compliance with
probation terms and conditions.
Regardless, a DOJ rap sheet can be a useful source for information necessary to fill out
dismissal petitions, especially if the individual has:
1. a large number of convictions;
2. old records (predating computerization of court records in the 1990's); and/or
3. records from multiple counties.
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How to read a DOJ rap sheet
Step 1 — How to read a DOJ rap sheet
If you don't already have a copy of
DOJ rap sheet, obtain one via Live
If you're the subject of the rap
sheet, you're authorized to
obtain your own rap sheet from
the DOJ. See Cal. Pen. C. §
The California Attorney
General's ("AG") website has
detailed information on how to
obtain your own DOJ rap sheet.
The only piece of
information not available
on the AG's website is that you
can waive the DOJ's part of the
fee ($25). You qualify for a fee
waiver if you are "indigent"
(defined as receiving public
benefit, such as CalWORKs,
food stamp, MediCal, or even
unemployment insurance).
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How to read a DOJ rap sheet
Step 2
A DOJ rap sheet is "mile wide and inch deep." While it is comprehensive, it rarely
has any information about what happens after sentencing.
See the first image. you can see that the person here was granted 24 months of probation
("24 MONTHS PROBATION") with various terms and conditions. But did she comply with
those terms and conditions? The DOJ rap sheet is silent.
Her probation terms and conditions include: 3 DAYS JAIL, paying fine or spending
additional 3 days in jail in lieu of fine ("3 DAYS JAIL OR FINE"), and restitution
("RESTN"). In granting her probation, the court suspended imposition of sentence ("IMP
As a point of comparison, check out the second image, which is from a court record for
the same case (from Los Angeles Superior Court) concerning sentencing in this case. It
has a lot more verbiage and contains the same information as the entry on the DOJ rap
sheet does.
But the court record shows more. Specifically, the third image shows that the
defendant failed to pay fines as ordered by the court, and it went to collection—
information that's missing from the DOJ rap sheet.
It may be possible to reconstruct such information from memory--if the case was recent
and isolated.
If memory doesn't help, official court records might. See the guide on reading Los
Angeles court records for more information on how to obtain and read court
As you can see from the image, a DOJ rap sheet includes a lot of abbreviations. Don't
worry. You will soon learn how to read the most relevant abbreviations.
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How to read a DOJ rap sheet
Step 3
The DOJ rap sheet is composed of two (2) main components: the subject's personal
identifying information and various events associated with him/her.
The personal identifying information always appears on the first page and includes: CII
(Criminal Investigation & Identification) and CDL (California Driver's License). Here, you
will also find all "aliases" (including misspelled names) associated with each event.
Each "event" is a separate entry, with the exception of an arrest when a charge is filed in
court. In that case, both the arrest by the arresting agency and the disposition from the
court are grouped together as a single "event."
Each event is demarcated by four aterisks ("*"). And, in case of an arrest resulting in a
charge, the arresting agency's entry is separated from the court's entry by four dashes
("—"). See the second image.
An event is recorded when the subject is fingerprinted and the fingerprint is sent to the
DOJ. Examples: arrest (either initial arrest or on a bench warrant), custody
(commitment to either prison or jail), licensing, and request for criminal record
exemption from Dep't of Social Services.
For the purpose of filling out a petition for dismissal, pay attention to all arrest and
custody events. Arrest may lead to a conviction eligible for dismissal under 1203.4, while
custody commitment to prison will show it to be ineligible.
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How to read a DOJ rap sheet
Step 4
Let's decipher an arrest event.
As previously mentioned, an arrest
event can include an entry from the
court. Sometimes, however, no
charge is filed. Here's an example
of one without a charge in court.
The entry shows an arrest by
California Police Department Los
Angeles ("CAPD LOS
ANGELES"), on Nov. 12, 1988
("1988-11-12") for a suspected
violation of Health & Safety
Code ("HS")section 11364. The
redacted arrest number is next
to CNT:01 and reads #14***72.
The final disposition ("DISPO")
was a release by the prosecutor
("PROS REL")—which means
that the arrest was only a
detention ("DET ONLY")—for
lack of sufficient evidence
other words, the prosecutor
didn't file a charge, because
there wasn't enough evidence.
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How to read a DOJ rap sheet
Step 5
Here is an event where the initial
arrest is followed by a court
entry showing charge and
The arrest was effectuated by
the California Police Department
Los Angeles ("CAPD LOS
ANGELES") on October 1, 1987
("19871001") for a suspected
violation of Penal Code ("PC")
section 484(a).
The entry following the arrest
entry is by the California
Municipal Court ("CAMC") in Los
Angeles County at Metro
Courthouse ("LOS ANGELES
METRO"). The all-important
case number is found next to
CNT:01 and reads #87M***.
Under the first count ("CNT:01"),
the defendant was charged with
a violation of Penal Code ("PC")
section 484(a). On November
10, 1987 ("19871110"), the court
convicted her ("DISPO:
misdemeanor ("CONV STATUS:
sentenced ("SEN:") her to 30
days in jail--no probation.
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How to read a DOJ rap sheet
Step 6
A "custody" is a separate event,
although it refers back to the
arrest/court event that results in
the custody commitment.
As you can see from the
attached image, such an entry
starts with CUSTODY heading,
which, in this case, shows that
California Department of
Corrections and Rehabilitation
("CDC") took her custody on
August 29, 1996 ("19960829").
On the first comment section
("COM:"), there is a reference to
the previous case, BA***46. The
case entry for BA***46 happens
to be right above the
commitment entry—which, as
previously discussed, is
demarcated by four asterisks
For the purpose of filling out
a petition for dismissal,
these custody events are only
relevant to determine the eligibility
of the underlying conviction for
dismissal. Rule of thumb: if the
case ends up with the person
serving time in prison, it can't be
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How to read a DOJ rap sheet
Step 7
For the purpose of filling out
a petition for dismissal (CR180), the DOJ rap sheet can
provide insufficient information.
(Remember, mile wide, inch deep.)
What you may not be able
to obtain from the rap sheet
is how well the defendant did on
complying with terms and
conditions of a probation, if
From the DOJ rap sheet,
you can obtain the following
information necessary to fill out a
CR-180: case number, the
defendant's name, the court of
conviction, the offense(s) of which
the defendant was convicted, the
date of conviction/sentencing, and
the sentence imposed (and
This document was last generated on 2014-09-04 06:12:50 PM.
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