Pennsylvania Public Records
The Pennsylvania Right-To-Know Law (RTKL) gives citizens of the Commonwealth a right to access government information. The RTKL went into effect on January 1, 2009, and replaced the previous law wherein government records are not considered public unless an individual could establish that the government entity intended to make those records public.
The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR) is responsible for enforcing the RTKL. The OOR provides citizens with a process for accessing government records and oversees appeals of denied requests.
How to Find Pennsylvania Public Records
Anyone from the general public can request access to Pennsylvania public records. The process for doing so depends on the type of records you seek and the government agency that maintains them.
To request records from a state agency, you can either:
- Through the mail: A written request, as well as forms and related documents, can be sent to the appropriate agency through the United States Postal Service.
- Online: Some local government agencies have an online form that can be completed and submitted electronically.
- In-person: Depending on the agency, you may be able to submit your request in person. You may need to schedule an appointment in advance.
You must contact that agency directly to request records from a local government agency. Each agency has its process for handling records requests, so it's best to call or visit the agency's website to find out more.
Some agencies may charge a fee for copies of public records, while others may provide them free of charge. Be sure to ask about any potential costs before you make your request.
Are Pennsylvania Public Records Available Online?
Most public records in Pennsylvania are available online. The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania has an online case search tool that allows users to search for court case information for free.
The City of Philadelphia and Allegheny County also have their own online case search tools. Other types of records that are available online include birth and death records, business filings, and property records.
Third-party websites such as InfoTracer also provide a comprehensive database of public records for a fee.
What Records are Available in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania public records fall into two categories:
- Records that are available to the general public: These records are open to anyone who requests them, and there is no requirement to establish a need for them. These records include birth and death certificates, business filings, and property records.
- Records that are not available to the general public: These records are exempt from disclosure under the Right-to-Know Law. These records include police reports and certain types of government financial information.
Commonly requested public records in Pennsylvania include:
- Birth certificates
- Death certificates
- Marriage licenses
- Divorce records
- Property records
- Business filings
- Arrest records
- Criminal history
What Records are Non-Public in Pennsylvania?
Certain types of records are exempt from disclosure under the Pennsylvania Right-To-Know Law. These records are not available to the general public and can only be accessed by those with a legitimate need for them. Examples of these records include:
- Child abuse records
- Medical records
- Personnel records
- Student records
- Police reports
- Certain types of government financial information
- DNA and RNA records
- Social Security Numbers
- Identities of confidential informants
- And more
Types of Public Records Available in Pennsylvania
Below are the types of public records that are available in Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania Public Criminal Records
Criminal records are documents that contain information about an individual's criminal history. These records can determine whether someone has been arrested, convicted, or is currently on probation or parole.
Criminal records are maintained by both state and local law enforcement agencies. In Pennsylvania, criminal records are available to the general public through the Pennsylvania State Police.
The Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History (PATCH) is the online system that allows users to request criminal background checks. There is a $22 fee for this service, and you need to register for an account to use it.
You can also request the records by mail by filling up this form along with the money order or certified check to:
Pennsylvania State Police Central Repository - RCPU
1800 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9758
Police Departments and Sheriffe Office in Pennsylvania :
Arrest Records and Warrants
People can access arrest records in Pennsylvania through the PATCH system. The following information is typically included in an arrest record:
Personal information about the individual, such as their name, age, and address
- The offense they were arrested for
- The date of the arrest
- The arresting agency
- The location of the arrest
- Whether the individual has been released from custody
Meanwhile, arrest warrants are court orders that authorize the police to arrest an individual accused of a crime. In Pennsylvania, you can request copies of active warrants through the local police department or the Sheriff's office.
Inmate and Jail Records
The Department of Corrections's Inmate/Parolee Locator is the online system that allows users to search for inmates and parolees in Pennsylvania.
Registered crime victims can also access the whereabouts or location of the inmates through Pennsylvania Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (PA SAVIN) which is also regularly updated and maintained by the DOC.
Jails and Prisons in Pennsylvania :
Pennsylvania Background Checks
Like other states, Pennsylvania follows the FCRA or Fair Credit Reporting Act which requires all commercial background check providers to obtain a consumer's written authorization before running a check.
First, employers who wish to conduct background checks must get their employees' consent. This is typically done through a signed release form.
Individuals who wish to run a background check on themselves can do so through the Pennsylvania State Police's PATCH. There is a $22 fee for this service, and you need to register for an account to use it.
Generally, background checks contain information about an individual's criminal history, employment history, credit history, and more.
How to find Sex Offenders in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law requires all sex offenders to register with the state police for 15 years. You can search for registered sex offenders in Pennsylvania through the Pennsylvania State Police's Megan's Law website.
To search, you must provide the offender's name, county, city, or zip code. You can also sign up for email alerts when an offender moves into your area.
Pennsylvania Public Vital Records
The Department of Health's Bureau of Health Statistics and Registries is the agency responsible for maintaining and issuing birth, death, and adoption records in Pennsylvania.
To request a birth or death record, you can order online at the Department of Health's Online Vital Record Ordering, where you are required to fill up information like the name of the person on the record, the date and place of birth or death, your relationship to the individual, and more. You can also order through mail by sending the completed application forms to:
Division of Vital Records
Birth Certificate Processing Unit
P.O. Box 1528
New Castle, PA 16103
Marriage and divorce records or certificates can be accessed through the county court clerk where the event was registered.
Adoption records in Pennsylvania are sealed and can only be accessed by the adoptee, adoptive parents, or legal guardian.
Pennsylvania Court Records
Pennsylvania court records are easily accessible to the public and can be obtained from the court clerk in the county where the case was tried.
The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania provides online court case information that allows users to search for court cases by name, case number, and location.
Generally, you can find information on the following:
- Appellate court case information (Supreme Court, Superior Court, and Commonwealth court);
- Criminal courts of common pleas
- civil court cases
- county court
- criminal cases
- misdemeanor cases
- traffic cases
- non-traffic cases
- landlord/tenant cases
State Court System in Pennsylvania
The state court system in Pennsylvania consists of the following:
- The Supreme Court
- Minor Courts
- Courts of Common Pleas
- Intermediate Appellate Courts (Commonwealth Court and Superior Court)
Intermediate appellate courts handle appeals from the courts of common pleas and other minor courts, while the supreme court is the state's highest court.
Courts in Pennsylvania :
Driving records generally contain information about an individual's driving history like traffic violations, accidents, DUI convictions, etc.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation or PennDOT is responsible for maintaining driving records.
You can request your driving record through the PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services in this online portal.
You will need to provide your social security number, driver's license number, and date of birth. If you cannot obtain your driving record history, you can download and complete the Request for Driver Information form. You can also request someone else's driving record, but you must include a notarized form.
Mail the completed forms, requirements, and the corresponding fees to:
BUREAU OF DRIVER LICENSING
Driver Record Services
P.O. BOX 68695 1101
SOUTH FRONT STREET 3RD FLOOR
HARRISBURG, PA 17106-8695
Civil Driving Infractions
Civil driving infractions can be found in the Driver Record Services. These are typically non-moving violations like parking tickets and seatbelt violations.
Pennsylvania has a point system for traffic violations where drivers accumulate points on their licenses for each violation. If a driver reaches a specific point total, they may face license suspension.
Pennsylvania License Plate Lookup
Individuals who want to perform a Pennsylvania license plate lookup can do so by completing Form DL-135 and sending it to the DMV. The DMV may deny the request if it is deemed to be frivolous or if the information requested is confidential.
Third-party websites offer Pennsylvania license plate lookups as well. You will need to provide the license plate number and state. They can provide information about the vehicle's registered owner, like their name, address, and more.
These websites may provide additional information about the vehicle, like its make, model, and year.
Pennsylvania Property and Asset Records Online
In Pennsylvania, property and asset records are public information. You can access these records through the county courthouse where the property is located.
The records will contain information about the owner of the property, the property's value, and any liens or encumbrances on the property. Some counties have an online database you can search, while others require you to request the information in person or by mail.
To find out how to request property and asset records in your county, visit their website or call their office.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Treasury has dedicated a website that provides information about unclaimed property. You can search for unclaimed money, property, and other assets turned over to the state.
Important Government Agencies in Pennsylvania
Below are some essential government agencies in Pennsylvania that maintain public records:
- P.A. Department of State
- PA Governor's Office
- Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
- PA General Assembly
- PA Office of Attorney General
- Department of Health
- Pennsylvania State Police
- Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania
- Department of Corrections
- Department of Transportation
- Pennsylvania Treasury
Counties in Pennsylvania
List of Content
- How to Find Pennsylvania Public Records
- What Records are Available in Pennsylvania?
- Types of Public Records Available in Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania Public Criminal Records
- Arrest Records and Warrants
- Inmate and Jail Records
- Pennsylvania Background Checks
- How to find Sex Offenders in Pennsylvania
- Pennsylvania Public Vital Records
- Pennsylvania Court Records
- Driving Records
- Civil Driving Infractions
- Pennsylvania License Plate Lookup
- Pennsylvania Property and Asset Records Online
- Important Government Agencies in Pennsylvania