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Philadelphia County Arrest Records

Following an arrest in the City and County of Philadelphia, a suspect may be taken into police custody and fingerprinted for an offense, i.e., if the offense is a felony, misdemeanor, or summary offense that becomes a misdemeanor on the second arrest (18 Pa.C.S. § 9112). Arrests resulting from private criminal complaints, summons, or retail theft offenses can also lead to a suspect's fingerprinting at the court's direction (18 Pa.C.S. § 3929).

In addition to collecting fingerprints, the arresting authority will note the suspect's identifying information (name, age, gender, height, weight) and personal belongings and take photographs. These pieces of information eventually form the arrest record, which plays a vital role in the subsequent criminal justice proceedings. This data collection also assists officers in preparing other police forms like the Prisoner Flow Chart, Complaint or Incident Report, Preliminary Arraignment System (PARS) Transcript, and Detainee Medical Checklist.

In Philadelphia, the police department or law enforcement agency that executed an arrest typically maintains the related records. However, it is not uncommon to find arrest information in other public documents, such as Philadelphia County court records, criminal history records, and press releases. Arrest records are often needed to bring charges against a person and provide pertinent information about the circumstances leading to someone's loss of freedom.

Are Arrest Records Public in Philadelphia County?

Yes. Arrest records are open to the public in Philadelphia County under Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law (RTKL)Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA), and other relevant statutes regulating the release of information to the public. However, this right of access is not all-encompassing, and disclosure may be prohibited by:

  • Federal or state law or regulation;
  • Court order or decree;
  • Privilege. For example, physician-patient or attorney-client privilege; or
  • One of the exceptions outlined in Section 708 of the Pennsylvania RTKL.

Some exemptions pertaining to arrest records under Section 708 include records relating to a criminal investigation where disclosure would:

  • Deprive a person of the right to impartial adjudication.
  • Make it harder to locate a defendant or codefendant.
  • Expose the identity of a confidential informant or suspect who has not been charged with an offense and was promised confidentiality.
  • Endanger a person's life or physical safety.
  • Hamper an agency's ability to secure an arrest, prosecution, or conviction.

However, the above limitations do not apply to police blotters, i.e., the chronological listings of arrests, including a suspect's name and address.

It is vital to note that the RTKL is not a confidentiality law, and its exemptions are not mandatory. Thus, agencies may release exempt records upon determining that it is in the public interest and that no other statute, judicial order, or privilege restricts access.

What Do Public Arrest Records Contain?

Public arrest records in Philadelphia County contain the following information:

  • Suspect's full name and date of birth
  • Suspect's physical characteristics, such as gender, height, weight, race, hair color, and eye color
  • Suspect's photograph (or mugshot)
  • Arresting agency and officer
  • Arrest type, date, and location
  • Alleged offense, including the description and code
  • Bail amount

Philadelphia County Crime Rate

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) publishes annual crime statistics for all Pennsylvania counties. According to the agency's Crime in Pennsylvania issue, Philadelphia County reported 120,423 Part 1 offenses in 2023, marking an 8.2% increase from the last year.

Larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and simple assault were the most common Part 1 offenses in Philadelphia in 2023. Larceny-theft accounted for the majority of crime incidents, constituting 42.3% (50,917) of the grand total. Next up was motor vehicle theft, which accounted for 19.9% with 24,005 occurrences, and simple assault, which added up to 19.5% with 23,509 cases.

Philadelphia's offense rate in 2023 was 76 per 1,000 population.

Philadelphia County Arrest Statistics

Statistics released by the Pennsylvania State Police show that 11,021 Part 1 arrests were made in Philadelphia County in 2023, representing a 10% increase from the previous year.

Of the total, 1,626 were juvenile arrests, and 9,395 were adult arrests. The three Part 1 offenses for which more adults were arrested were aggravated assault (2,701 arrests), larceny-theft (2,209 arrests), and simple assault (1,619 arrests). In the juvenile category, more minors were apprehended for motor vehicle theft (747 arrests), robbery (242 arrests), and aggravated assault (208 arrests).

On the other hand, 10,126 Part II arrests were reported in Philadelphia County in 2023, an 8.5% decrease from the previous year.

The most common Part II arrests involving adults were drug abuse violations (5,162 arrests), weapons violations (2,138 arrests), and driving under the influence (DUI) (1,221 arrests). Meanwhile, juvenile arrests frequently occurred for weapons violations (224 arrests), drug abuse violations (113 arrests), and stolen property (69 arrests).

Note: Part 1 (Group A) offenses are the more serious crimes for which both incidents and arrests are reported. Only arrests are reported for Part II (Group B) offenses, which tend to be minor in nature. More information about these classifications can be found on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) website.

Find Philadelphia County Arrest Records

Searches for Philadelphia County arrest records are generally conducted through the Philadelphia Department of Records, which maintains archives for the Philadelphia Police Department, the primary local law enforcement agency in the City and County of Philadelphia.

The Department of Records offers different application forms for submitting record requests to the local police department. Generally, a person must provide details like the name of the person(s) involved and exact dates and locations. Processing fees apply for such requests.

Nonetheless, some arrest information—including an arrestee's full name, arresting officer/agency, charges, arrestee's name and birth date, and bail amount—can be pulled from documents maintained by the Philadelphia Courts. Local court records are accessible through the Pennsylvania Uniform Judicial System (UJS) web portal or by using request procedures implemented by the Philadelphia Courts.

Note that where an inquiry pertains to a person arrested in Philadelphia but committed to a state prison, one should access the State Department of Corrections Inmate/Parolee Locator. Similarly, a search for a person in federal custody can be carried out on the Federal Bureau of Prisons Find An Inmate website, and persons detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can be located using the agency's Online Detainee Locator System.

Free Arrest Record Search in Philadelphia County

Individuals who wish to look up arrest records in Philadelphia for free may stop by or contact the police station that made the arrest. Under Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law, agencies cannot charge fees other than those necessary to comply with a request. For example, if a request involves reproducing copies, the requester will be liable for the associated charges.

The Philadelphia Police Department's Incarcerated Person Locator can also be searched with the criteria listed below to look up some arrest information on persons accused or convicted in Philadelphia:

  • A first and last name and date of birth
  • A six or seven-digit police identification number (PID)

Finally, one may search a reputable third-party database with an offender's name or ID to find arrest records from Philadelphia County. It should be noted, however, that some providers will charge fees to access the information.

Get Philadelphia County Criminal Records

Title 18, Section 9102 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes describes a criminal record (also called "criminal history record information" or "RAP sheet") as information collected by criminal justice agencies about individuals at the start of criminal proceedings. The record includes identifiable descriptions, notations/dates of arrests, indictments, informations, formal charges, and dispositions.

Individuals searching for criminal records from Philadelphia County have the following options:

  1. Submit a completed Philadelphia Police Records Check Request Form to the Department of Records to obtain a copy of a local police records check or letter of good conduct. The agency accepts in-person and mail requests at:
    Department of Records
    Public Safety Records Unit
    City Hall
    Room 170
    Philadelphia, PA 19107

    Each requester incurs a $40 fee to submit the form. Fees are payable by cash, business check, money order, or certified check. Checks should be made payable to the "City of Philadelphia," and cash should only be paid in person.
    Upon submission, the Department of Records will send the application to the local police department for processing, which takes about 10 days. Subsequently, the requester will receive a copy of the report.
    It is important to note that a criminal record check at the county level will only reveal local arrest information. Further, the check is constrained to subjects of records or persons having a subject's consent.
  2. Request a statewide criminal records check from the Pennsylvania State Police, the central repository of criminal history information in Pennsylvania. Subjects of records or their legal representatives (showing a legal affidavit or letter of representation) can opt for the Individual Access and Review option by submitting Form SP4-170 via mail. This review provides a subject's entire criminal history, including non-conviction details, or proof that no record exists.
    Proper identification (i.e., a photocopy of a valid government-issued identification with a current address) and a $20 fee must be submitted with the form. Where the photo ID does not show the present address, the requester can submit a utility bill (dated within 60 days), deed, current homeowner's insurance policy, or residential rental/lease agreement instead.
    Processing may take three months or longer. The PSP's Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History (PATCH) helpline can be contacted at 1-888-QUERY-PA ((888) 783-7972) for assistance.
    Other interested members of the public can obtain criminal records from the Pennsylvania State Police by submitting a request on the ePATCH portal. However, per the law.), the agency only releases the following publicly:
  • All convictions.
  • All charges less than three years from the arrest date and for which the central repository has not received a disposition.
  • All charges for which an arrest warrant has been issued and the central repository has received notice of such a warrant.
    Each background check through the PATCH system costs $22, and each user requires a subject's name, birth date, and Social Security number (optional) for a search.
  1. Request a nationwide criminal records check from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for $18. The record will include criminal history information from Philadelphia County (if any) and other U.S. regions. Only subjects of records can order these files. More information is available on the FBI's Identity History Summary page.

Philadelphia County Arrest Records Vs. Criminal Records

The difference between an arrest and a criminal record is subtle, leading to their common interchangeability in everyday speech. However, an arrest record is precisely that: documentation that identifies someone accused of a crime and the facts and circumstances surrounding the arrest. It does not reflect the court's disposition and cannot be held as evidence of a person's guilt.

Conversely, a criminal record carries information beyond the initial arrest, encompassing the final court disposition and other pertinent details compiled by criminal justice agencies.

Unlike an arrest record, having a criminal record can present substantial difficulties for the record holder, including challenges in securing employment and possible deportation.

How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record?

Perpetually. Any record of arrest generated in Philadelphia County follows its subject until expunged or pardoned.

It is important to note that law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies utilize record retention policies or disposition schedules, as established by law, regulation, policy, or another directive. However, the destruction or deletion of an arrest record by an originating police agency, as per its retention schedule, does not imply that the record will be automatically deleted from the central repository.

Expunge Philadelphia County Arrest Records

Pennsylvania law, 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122, lists the following conditions as generally being sufficient to expunge an arrest record in Philadelphia County:

  • The subject of the record turns 70 years old and has remained free from arrest or prosecution for 10 years since their final release from confinement or supervision.
  • The subject of the record has been dead for three years.
  • The subject petitions the court to expunge a summary offense and has remained free from arrest or prosecution for five years after the conviction.
  • No disposition was received or recorded in the central repository within 18 months of the arrest. However, the court having jurisdiction must certify to the central repository's director that no disposition or pending action exists.
  • The subject was granted an unconditional pardon for an offense.
  • The subject is 21 or older, was convicted of a summary offense occurring on or after their 18th birthday, and has served their sentence.
  • The subject was acquitted (Pa. R. Crim.P. 790.2).

Individuals who meet the state's expungement criteria can proceed to submit a petition to the court having jurisdiction over the matter. Note:

  • A copy of one's statewide criminal history report may be needed to file the petition.
  • A copy of the petition must be served on the prosecutor when filing with the court.

Those who wish to obtain an order limiting the public dissemination of their arrest records per 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122.1 can review Pa. R. Crim.P. 791 for the judicial process. On the other hand, juvenile arrest records can be expunged per Pa. R. Crim.P. 170 & 172.

Petition forms can be obtained from the Philadelphia Courts website.

According to 18 Pa.C.S. § 9122.5, the effect of expunging or limiting access to an arrest record is that the subject may respond to inquiries as if the record never existed.

For more information about the expungement process in Philadelphia, the Clerk of Courts can be reached at (215) 683-7703.

Philadelphia County Arrest Warrants

An arrest warrant is a formal directive to law enforcement officers permitting the arrest of someone suspected of breaking the law or who defied a court order. In Philadelphia County, a magistrate or judge (known as the "issuing authority") can release these orders. However, for the warrant to be issued, the affiant (the requesting peace officer) must establish probable cause (a reasonable basis) by way of an affidavit sworn before the authority (Pa. R. Crim.P. 513).

Generally, Philadelphia County arrest warrants list a suspect's identifying details, alleged offense, the issuing authority, the county or city of issue, and an order to bring the suspect before the court without unnecessary delay.

It should be noted that an arrest warrant differs from a summons. In the latter case, law enforcement files criminal charges, and the criminal complaint is mailed to the defendant with a request to appear for a preliminary arraignment or hearing voluntarily. If the defendant fails to comply with the summons, the court may approve an arrest warrant to compel their appearance.

Philadelphia County Arrest Warrant Search

One way to determine if an arrest warrant was issued in Philadelphia County is to search court records via the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania Web Portal or research these records in person at the applicable courthouse (where the case was filed).

Members of the public can also query the Office of the Sheriff for active arrest warrants. The office can be reached at (215) 686-3560 for information. Alternatively, one may stop by the following address:

100 South Broad Street
5th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19110

One parameter frequently used to conduct a Philadelphia County arrest warrant search is a person's first and last name. Such inquiries are typically offered to the public free of charge.

Do Philadelphia County Arrest Warrants Expire?

No. Arrest warrants remain in effect until executed. A warrant may be executed when the named subject is apprehended by the police, or the suspect may surrender voluntarily. However, a warrant can also become inactive if recalled by the court or the suspect dies.

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