In an attempt to stop the illegal use of vital records, and as part of statewide efforts to reduce identity theft, California law (effective July 1, 2003) changed the way certified copies of birth, death and marriage certificates are issued.
Certified copies to establish identity can be issued only to authorized individuals, as defined in Health and Safety Code103526(c).
All others will be issued Certified Informational Copies that are not valid to establish identity, and contain a legend on the face of the document that states, "Informational, Not a Valid Document to Establish Identity."
In the case of death records, Health and Safety Code defines an authorized person as:
- A parent or legal guardian of the registrant.
- A party entitled to receive the record as a result of a court order, or an attorney or a licensed adoption agency seeking the death record in order to comply with the requirements of § 3140 or 7603 of the Family Code.
- A member of a law enforcement agency or a representative of another governmental agency, as provided by law, who is conducting official business.
- A child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner of the registrant.
- An attorney representing the registrant or the registrant's estate, or any person or agency empowered by statute or appointed by a court to act on behalf of the registrant or the registrant's estate.
- Any agent or employee of a funeral establishment who acts within the course and scope of his or her employment and who orders certified copies of a death certificate on behalf of an individual specified in paragraphs (1) to (5), inclusive, of subdivision (a) of § 7100 of the Health and Safety Code.