A registry of domestic-violence perpetrators became effective Monday in Santa Clara County, one of three Bay Area counties to roll out the new system, which is designed to provide current information to law-enforcement and court officials statewide.
The counties are the first in the state to use a new online system intended to give judges and police better and faster information on court-issued restraining orders in domestic violence cases. Marin County was the first to implement the system on June 7, followed by Santa Cruz County on June 14 and Santa Clara County on Monday.
The system is the California Courts Protective Order Registry, launched in June by the San Francisco-based state Administrative Office of the Courts.
The system enables police officers, sheriff's deputies and judges responding to a victim's complaint to do a computer search at any time of day or night by the name of an alleged abuser or harasser.
Administrative Office of the Courts spokesman Philip Carrizosa said most of the orders in the system are those issued against abusers in domestic-violence cases.
But the registry also contains restraining orders and protective orders filed in other types of cases, including elder-abuse and workplace-harassment situations.
When fully implemented statewide, the registry will show any orders issued against an individual in any California county and will show an exact image of each order, including the dates it is in effect and any notes handwritten by a judge.
"The registry will empower judges to make more informed decisions and avoid issuing conflicting orders," Administrative Office of the Courts staff member Christine Patton said.
"It will also improve public safety and the safety of law enforcement officers by providing access to more accurate, complete and up-to-date information about protective orders," she said.
Patton is the Administrative Office of the Courts' regional court services administrator for the Bay Area and northern coastal California.
Carrizosa said the registry is intended to address two related problems identified in the interim report of a state domestic violence task force in 2006.
First, he said, some judges don't have easy access to orders that might have been issued against an alleged abuser in another county.
Data from such orders is stored in another statewide system known as the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, or CLETS, but not all county Superior Court have access to that system.
Second, while police can use the CLETS system, it shows data but not the actual image of court orders and may not include items such as handwritten notes added to an order by a judge, Carrizosa said.
Seventeen more counties are expected to join the registry by December. Carrizosa said it is hoped that they will include Sonoma, Monterey and possibly Alameda counties.
The remaining 38 California counties will join the registry in the next few years, according to the Administrative Office of the Courts.
A $1 million grant from the California Emergency Management Agency is paying for project-management expenses and scanning hardware for the first 20 courts, the Administrative Office of the Courts said.
A slightly different Internet registry is already in effect in Orange County.