Pennsylvania Public Records
Table of Contents
Pennsylvania Public Records Laws
Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law (RTKL) grants individuals the statutory right to inspect and copy the public records of Pennsylvania. Individuals requesting access to Pennsylvania public records do not need to divulge their reasons for requesting the information, as the request cannot be denied based on these grounds.
Public records from all commonwealth, legislative, local and judicial agencies can be requested, as well as records from state boards, authorities, schools and offices. Documents considered to be public records consist of any map, book, tape, photograph, sound recording, film or electronic media created, retained or received in connection with a business activity or transaction of a state agency.
A request for public record may be denied, however, if an exemption prohibits the public disclosure of the information held within. For instance, any record that would result in an agency losing state or federal funds cannot be delivered upon request, as well as any information that would reasonably result in the risk of physical harm.
For more information regarding Pennsylvania’s public records law, examine Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law in its entirety.
Pennsylvania Criminal Records, Arrest Records and Background Checks
The Pennsylvania State Police oversee and process requests for criminal history checks. The Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History (PATCH) tool, a database maintained by the Pennsylvania State Police, is searchable by registered and non-registered users. There is a non-refundable fee associated with every search, regardless of the outcome of the search, even if no record is found. Customers of the website will be charged for misspellings, user errors or duplicate submissions.
If a record is found, it will include all past convictions, all charges that are less than three years from the date of arrest and all charges with a current pending warrant issued. The database can be found on The Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History tool webpage of the Pennsylvania State Police website.
The Pennsylvania State Police are also responsible for overseeing and delivering all state issued background checks. More information regarding requesting a background check and criminal history record can be found on the Pennsylvania State Police website.
Pennsylvania Jail and Inmate Records
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections collects jail and inmate records and makes them available to the public through a searchable online database. This database contains information regarding inmates currently under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. The database can be searched by last name, first name, sex, inmate number, location, date of birth and race. If a record is found, it will state the inmate’s race, date of birth, housing location, height, citizenship and complexion. The database can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections website.
More information regarding Pennsylvania’s jail and inmate records can be found within Pennsylvania’s Victim Notification Service (VINE) Profile.
Pennsylvania Court Records
Pennsylvania Court Records are overseen and distributed by the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania. Individual court case information can be searched for online with no fee. These searches contain information regarding civil cases, criminal cases, traffic cases, non-traffic cases and landlord-tenant cases. In order to search for Pennsylvania court records, visit the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania’s web portal.
More information regarding Pennsylvania courts can be found on the District Court Administrators page of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania’s website.
Pennsylvania Vital Records
The Pennsylvania Department of Health maintains and distributes Pennsylvania Vital Records. These records include birth and death records dating back to 1906. Birth certificates can be requested by the person named on the certificate, as long as they are 18 years of age or older, or by a close family member or legal guardian. Death certificates may be requested by a legal representative of the decedent’s estate, immediate family members and those with Power of Attorney.
More information regarding how to request a Pennsylvania Vital Records can be found on the certificates page of the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.