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Are Criminal Records Public In Pennsylvania?

Criminal records are public records under the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law. Public records are free to view or copy by this rule in Pennsylvania except for criminal records restricted by law or court order.

Third-parties and state agencies seeking information about a possible criminal history of an individual have the right to obtain the necessary information. Most government agencies have access to them for free, while other private agencies pay a service fee to access criminal history information.

What Is Included In A Criminal Record In Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, criminal records are also referred to as “rap sheets,” which comprise police arrests, sex offenders’ listings, court conviction records, traffic violation tickets, parole information, and other filings of criminal implications. Components of a rap sheet are compiled from primary repositories of criminal information: police departments and sheriff offices as well as courthouses across the state. Each repository of criminal information has its data capture system. However, some details are common to all records:

  • Suspect’s full names, nicknames inclusive
  • Date of birth, sex, race, and ethnicity
  • Physical descriptors such as height, weight, skin color, the color of eyes, hair, etc.’
  • Suspect’s fingerprints
  • Mugshot of the suspect
  • Any previous criminal information, if any
  • Filed documentation of current indictment or arrest

Information about the victim of the crime is not reflected in the criminal record of a suspect. This is done to protect the privacy of the victim. There are conviction records and the date of the conviction, as well as the court judgment stated in the document. Similarly, if the suspect ends up discharged and acquitted of the charges, the details of the case’s dismissal are clearly stated in the record.

How To Look Up My Criminal Records In Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) is in charge of collecting, analyzing, and maintaining criminal information across the state. Although subsets of criminal records are available at the local law enforcement agencies (police departments and sheriff’s offices) and judicial systems in the state, a condensed summary is generated by the Pennsylvania State Police.

Requests for a criminal record are predominantly name-based in Pennsylvania. These requests are made in two ways:

  • By mail or
  • Via online database operated by the PSP

For mail requests, there are different forms for each category of inquiry. Each depends on the identity of the requester and the purpose of the application:

  • SP4–164 Criminal History Request Form: This is also known as a Standard Record Check Request. Only this type of request can be notarized. Notarized copies of a processed request are used for official purposes in the state. Each request is processed at $22, while notarization costs $5, all payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by money order or certified check.
  • SP4–164A Criminal History Request Form- Volunteers only: Persons acting on behalf of organizations can submit a request for free by using this form.
  • Persons requesting personal records should use the Individual Access and Review Request Form SP4–170. Requests made with the form are processed into records for private use only, not employment. Each request costs $20 made payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by certified check or money order. Only owners of the record and their legal representatives can request with this form. In order to ensure exclusive distinction, applications must be accompanied by a copy of a valid photo ID and a letter of authorization if the requester is not directly the person named in the record.

All request forms require the following to be completed:

  • Name and address of the requester, including the zip code of the city or state
  • Telephone number including the area code of the requester
  • Full names (including nicknames) of the subject of the record
  • Social security number, date of birth, sex, and race of the subject of the record
  • Reason for request

Completed requests should be sent by mail to:

Pennsylvania State Police Central Repository - RCPU

1800 Elmerton Avenue

Harrisburg, PA 17110–9758

Call 1–888–783–7972 for more questions and assistance.

Requesters can also check for criminal history record information remotely using the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History, also known as PATCH. Registered users on the website are defined as agencies or organizations that perform frequent routine checks on staff and prospective employees. And as such, they are placed in a 30-day billing cycle. Contact the ePATCH help desk on 888–783–7972, option #3 for inquiries or help.

Non-registered users, on the other hand, are individuals who seek to conduct searches on the website. An unregistered user on the site can perform up to 10 record searches in a session. All searches are charged using a credit card. A request may return a result after two to four weeks of submitting a search request online. Returned results can be verified by using the PATCH Record Check Status screen before proceeding to print. A control number and the name of the subject of record will be required for the verification process. A certification link on the screen says if the information has been certified. All users are required to print the screen results of their searches.

How Can I Get My Criminal Records For Free In Pennsylvania?

A rap sheet in Pennsylvania may be obtained free by sending a mail request to the PSP address above using the volunteer form. However, such a request must be conducted on behalf of an organization. The PATCH website also provides free access to volunteers. Similarly, such searches must be affiliated with an organization. Another way to access some criminal records free is to use the Electronic Case Record Database of the state. However, the records only provide information about criminal cases concluded across Pennsylvania’s state courts.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How To Search Criminal Records Online In Pennsylvania?

Criminal History records are available online to members of the public via PATCH. Alternatively, criminal records are accessible online via the PAeDocket. Note that case information on PAeDocket is limited to court cases. Therefore, these are not official court records.

Criminal records regarding sex offenses in the state can also be viewed online at Megan’s Law Website. Other subsets of criminal information may be viewed online where applicable on county Sheriff websites or Police Departments. These include arrest warrants, incident reports, inmate registry, etc. Although they are free to view, the fragmented nature of such searches may pose a challenge putting them all together. A requester also risks mistaken identity where names or identifiers are similar.

How To Get Criminal Records Expunged In Pennsylvania?

To expunge a record is to erase or wipe out the details of a record from public access. All criminal records entered into the state record system remain there permanently. The expungement of a record is a matter of who has access to what information. Not all criminal records qualify for expungement. Those that are eligible include:

  • Unconvicted charges
  • Offenses resolved through an ARD program
  • Alcohol-related offenses
  • Other minor or ungraded offenses of penalties not more than a two-year jail term as penalty

Both the subject of the record and their legal delegates can proceed to expunge a criminal record. The PSP provides step-by-step guidelines for expunging a record in Pennsylvania:

  • Download and fill out the SP 4–170
  • Make out a $20 money order or certified check payable to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  • Attach a copy of a valid photo ID and letter of representation (if the requester is not the subject of the record) to the form.

Mail them along with the evidence of payment to:

Pennsylvania State Police

Central Repository-RCPU

1800 Elmerton Avenue

Harrisburg, PA 17117–9758

  • Expect a full arrest record through mail delivery. Afterward, visit the Clerk of Court in the county where the arrest occurred for instructions on making a petition to the court for expungement of the record.
  • When the court approves the petition, a court order signed by a Commonwealth Court judge is forwarded to PSP for expungement.
  • After the record has been expunged, and the details are removed from public access. The only evidence that remains with the subject of the record is the mail delivery of arrest records before the petition for expungement. Any individual cannot access expunged records, but such records remain accessible to law enforcement agencies with due permission.

How To Get Criminal Records Sealed In Pennsylvania?

Sealing a record is similar to expunging a record. The difference is that sealed records are still accessible to involved parties, attorneys, and authorized persons. State statutes seal certain portions of public records. These include:

  • Juvenile records
  • Names and Addresses of Victims
  • Financial information and social security numbers
  • Driver’s license
  • Records of cases that are still pending in court.

Furthermore, the Clean Slate Act of 2018 provides for automatically sealing of second and third-degree misdemeanors. To qualify for the sealing of records, the involved party must satisfy the terms and conditions for sealing a record. Such an individual must be free of any charges within ten years of the last conviction. Misdemeanors with a penalty of not more than a five-year jail term may also petition the court for limited access. In limited access, records are rendered inaccessible to individuals and non-criminal justice or government agencies by court order. Commonwealth Courts handle cases of criminal record sealing in Pennsylvania.

In order to seal a criminal record, the subject of the record or legal representative files a petition to the court where the case was tried. The court judge decides if the basis for the request is acceptable by law. An approved petition is transferred to the Commonwealth judge for approval before the court order is transferred to PSP for action.

Who Can See My Sealed Criminal Record In Pennsylvania?

Sealed records will not be accessible by other members of the public or corporate bodies. All online or electronic access to the record will also be removed. Access to sealed records is limited to the involved parties, attorneys, and law enforcement agencies. Expunged documents relieve the defendant from all responsibility for a crime. However, the record remains in the legal system, available when needed by law enforcement agencies.

  • Criminal Records
  • Arrests Records
  • Warrants
  • Driving Violations
  • Inmate Records
  • Felonies
  • Misdemeanors
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax & Property Liens
  • Civil Judgements
  • Federal Dockets
  • Probate Records
  • Marriage Records
  • Divorce Records
  • Death Records
  • Property Records
  • Asset Records
  • Business Ownership
  • Professional Licenses
  • And More!