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Are Pennsylvania Records Public?

Yes, all records created or maintained by government agencies in Pennsylvania are considered public. In line with the state’s Right to Know Law (RTKL), interested persons can access Pennsylvania public records of any form, provided that the information contained within the records is not exempted from public view.

Who Can Access Pennsylvania Public Records?

Citizens of Pennsylvania and non-citizens who are legal residents of the United States can access Pennsylvania public records as per the Rights to Know Law. Access to these records may also include foundations, corporations, and other government agencies in the country. However, all persons and organizations are subject to the exemptions under the Right to Know Law and are required to provide the information needed to make a request.

Do I Need to State My Purpose and Use When Requesting Public Records in Pennsylvania?

Requesters do not need to state their purpose before obtaining a public record in Pennsylvania. While record custodians may ask for the purpose, they are restricted by law from demanding the reason as a prerequisite for granting access. Hence, requesters may politely refuse to state their reason or choose to provide one if the answer can help the custodian better respond to the request.

What Records are Public in Pennsylvania?

Government-maintained documents are generally considered public by law, including court records, inmate records, sex offender information, and certain property records. These records may be papers, maps, images, or electronic files and shall be made available in any form requested, in line with the Right to Know Law.

Pennsylvania Public Court Records

Pennsylvania court records refer to official files and documents that contain information on court proceedings or other judicial actions taken by a court in the state. Examples of these documents include docket sheets, decrees, transcripts, and sworn statements. Pennsylvania court records may provide short summaries of a case and include details like case number, filing date, party names, and disposition. 

However, as per the RTKL, not all Pennsylvania court records are public. For instance, the law exempts access to:

  • Records sealed by court order
  • Information subject to attorney-client privilege
  • Personal medical and financial information
  • Information concerning minors
  • Driver's license and social security numbers

Pennsylvania Public Criminal Records

Criminal records in Pennsylvania are documents that provide an official summary of an individual’s criminal activities or history, including past arrests, prosecution, and convictions. These details are gathered from various criminal justice agencies like courts and police departments in the state and throughout the country. 

The Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) maintains a central repository of criminal history information for the state and conducts background checks for a fee. If a background check subject has a criminal record, the information contained within may include:

  • Full name
  • Age or date of birth
  • Fingerprints
  • Gender
  • Physical descriptions like scars, tattoos, body marks
  • Arrests, offenses, and indictments
  • Conviction and sentence details

To request a criminal background check, interested persons or organizations may conduct a web-based computer application through the e-PATCH system or fill out application forms and send them along with any required fees to the PSP at:

Pennsylvania State Police 

Central Repository - RCPU

1800 Elmerton Avenue

Harrisburg, PA 17110-9758

Additional criminal case information may be available at the court where the criminal proceedings took place. Interested persons should simply direct requests to the appropriate Protonotary or Court Clerk.

Pennsylvania Public Arrest Records

Arrest records are documents created by law enforcement agencies in the state to provide details of an individual’s apprehension and circumstances surrounding the arrest. However, these records do not usually cover the disposition of the case and should not be used as a substitute for criminal records.

Accessing arrest records in Pennsylvania depends on whether the record or the information contained within is exempted from public access under the Right to Know Law. Like most law enforcement records, arrest records may be unavailable if sealed by court order or if they contain sensitive information relating to ongoing investigations, juveniles, or other exempted details. However, law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania can simply remove confidential details from copies provided to the public. Interested persons may direct requests to the arresting agency.

Pennsylvania Public Bankruptcy Records

Pennsylvania bankruptcy records are documents filed in a Pennsylvania court in relation to a bankruptcy case. These records or court files provide information on the entire bankruptcy case, such as:

  • Debtor or debtors’ names
  • Creditors’ names
  • Type of bankruptcy filed (Chapter 7, 11, 12, or 13)
  • Legal representative and trustee’s details
  • Case number 
  • Bankruptcy petition filing date
  • List and type of debts
  • Details of filed plans, reports, schedules, discharge, and certificates
  • Details of 341 hearing
  • Final disposition and date of closing case

Except exempted by the RTKL or filed under seal, bankruptcy records are public in Pennsylvania. Interested persons can look up these records online by using electronic portals provided by the court or get copies by directing requests (containing case details) to the clerk of the specific court where the bankruptcy was filed. The following are lists of bankruptcy courts in Pennsylvania:

U.S. Bankruptcy Court - Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Office:

United States Bankruptcy Court

Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Robert N.C. Nix, Sr. Federal Courthouse

900 Market Street, Suite 400

Philadelphia, PA 19107

Phone: (215) 408-2800


Reading Office:

United States Bankruptcy Court

Eastern District of Pennsylvania

The Gateway Building

201 Penn Street, Suite 103

Reading, PA 19601

Phone: (610) 208-5040


U.S. Bankruptcy Court - Western District of Pennsylvania


U.S. Bankruptcy Court

5414 U.S. Steel Tower

600 Grant Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: (412) 644-2700



U.S. Bankruptcy Court

U.S. Courthouse

Room B160

17 South Park Row

Erie, PA 16501

Phone: (814) 464-9740



U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Penn Traffic Building

Johnstown, PA 15901

Phone: (814) 533-4246


U.S. Bankruptcy Court - Middle District of Pennsylvania


Max Rosenn U.S. Courthouse

197 South Main Street, rm 247

Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701

Phone: (570) 831-2500



Sylvia H. Rambo U.S. Courthouse

1501 North 6th Street

Harrisburg, PA 17102

Phone: (717) 901-2800



US Courthouse & Federal Building 

240 West Third Street

Williamsport, PA 17701

Pennsylvania Public Birth Records

Pennsylvania birth records are documents that contain information on a person’s birth in the state, such as the subject’s name, sex, date of birth, place of birth, and parent’s name. The Pennsylvania Department of Health - Division of Vital Records maintains records of births in the state since 1906. However, birth certificates are private until 105 years after the birth and strictly available to the following parties:

  • Record subject
  • Subject’s parents, step-parents, or spouse
  • Siblings or half-siblings
  • Direct descendants, step-son, or step-daughter
  • Grandparent and great-grandparent
  • Legal representatives and persons with Power of Attorney

Eligible persons should make requests in person at the public offices or mail filled request forms, copy of valid identification, and $20 fees to:

Department of Health

Division of Vital Records

Birth Certificate Processing Unit

P.O. Box 1528

New Castle, PA 16103

Note: In-person or mail-in requesters should be at least 16 years of age.

Pennsylvania Public Death Records

The Pennsylvania Department of Health - Division of Vital Records maintains records of deaths that happened in the state since 1906. These records provide information such as the deceased’s name, date/time of death, location of death, and the subject’s age at the time of death. However, death certificates are not publicly available until 50 years after the subject’s death. Only the following parties may get copies of Pennsylvania death records:

  • Deceased’s spouse or ex-spouse
  • Parents or step-parents
  • Siblings or half-siblings
  • Direct descendants, step-son, or step-daughter
  • Grandparent and great-grandparent
  • Extended family members
  • A government agency that has taken over estate management
  • Persons with direct financial interests in the deceased

Eligible requesters can make requests in person at the public offices or mail filled application forms, copy of valid identification, $20 fees, and other required proofs to:

Department of Health

Division of Vital Records

Death Certificate Processing Unit

P.O. Box 1528

New Castle, PA 16103

Note: Requesters should be at least 18 years of age.

Pennsylvania Public Marriage Records 

The Clerk of Orphans Court maintains records of marriages licensed by each county courthouse in Pennsylvania since September 30, 1885. As such, copies of marriage licenses or certificates are obtainable through direct inquiries to the county courthouse that issued the license. 

For example, In Montgomery County, interested parties can obtain a marriage record by visiting the Marriage License Department or by mailing a Marriage Record Request Form to the department. All requests must include the full name of the husband or wife at the time of marriage and the appropriate fee (which varies by county).

The information in a marriage record often reflects the details that the couple provided on their marriage license application. These include:

  • The bride and groom's full legal names
  • Birthplace
  • Residence, 
  • Age,
  • Race,
  • Occupation
  • Names and birthplaces of parents,
  • Mother's maiden name,
  • The date that the license was issued 

The highest court in the Commonwealth is the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania located at:

Pennsylvania Judicial Center

601 Commonwealth Avenue

Suite 1500

P.O. Box 61260

Harrisburg, PA 17106 

Note: For earlier marriage records, church archives and newspapers may provide more information.

Pennsylvania Public Divorce Records

Public divorce records in Pennsylvania are accessible online through the unified court system, which offers free electronic access to case records, including divorce records, to state residents. Meanwhile, physical divorce records are kept and distributed (for a fee) at the county courthouse where the divorce was finalized. 

To review or copy information about divorce and its proceedings, interested persons should contact the county's Office of the Prothonotary and obtain the record request application. These applications often ask the requester to provide information such as the divorced parties' full names, the location and approximate date of the divorce, the file number, and so on. 

Pennsylvania divorce records may contain the following information:

  • Names of the divorced parties
  • The date of divorce 
  • The county courthouse where the divorce was finalized
  • The court's decision on
    • spousal support or alimony 
    • asset and liability division 
    • child support
    • Child custody, etc.

Pennsylvania Public Inmate Records

Pennsylvania inmate records are publicly accessible in line with the Right to Know Law (RTKL). The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) operates a web-based database called the Inmate/Parolee Locator that allows users to look up inmates and parolees in state facilities by name, inmate number, or date of birth. Interested persons can use this tool to determine an inmate's housing location or a parolee's residence, as well as their race, date of birth, offense details, and other information.

For offline searches, interested persons may contact the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections or the holding facility by phone, written request, or in-person visits to:

Department of Corrections Central Office

1920 Technology Parkway 

Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

Phone: (717) 728-2573


Interested persons should note that while the Pennsylvania DOC is in charge of state prisons, each county's sheriff oversees county jails in Pennsylvania. These jails mainly house people awaiting trial or serving shorter terms of imprisonment. 

Therefore, accessing county jail records or information about an inmate in a county jail requires requesters to identify the specific county where the individual is imprisoned. Doing so may provide access to the facility's online inmate roster (if available) and help requesters know where to direct requests.

The same applies to records of persons housed in a federal prison in Pennsylvania. For these, interested persons can use the Federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) official inmate locator tool to search for the inmate using their BOP number or first and last name.

Pennsylvania Public Sex Offender Information

Pennsylvania's Megan's Law requires the police department to set up and regularly update a public registry of people who live, work, or attend school in the Commonwealth and have been convicted of certain sexual offenses. The registry's goal is to keep the public informed and safe and may not be used to harass or commit offenses against registrants.

The Pennsylvania Megan's Law website is the official portal for the Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registry. Users may use the search function to find registered sex offenders in a particular area. To conduct a search, they must provide the offender's name, county, city, or zip code.

The following information on registered sex offenders is legally allowed for release on the website:

  • Full name and any known aliases
  • Birth year
  • Address for every residence
  • Institution's address if the offender is enrolled as a student
  • Employment address
  • An updated photograph of the offender
  • An account of the offense that resulted in registration
  • The conviction date

Pennsylvania Public Property Records

In Pennsylvania, every municipality has an office or division where people can go to find out information about any property. Typically, the town hall, the county courthouse, or the Pennsylvania county recorder's office house public property records in the state. These documents contain information about the property's owner, its value, and any liens or encumbrances that may be attached to the property.

Some counties or cities, such as Philadelphia, have an online database, and others require interested parties to request property and asset records in person or via mail. Furthermore, the Pennsylvania Treasury has launched a website to provide information about unclaimed property, money, and assets that have been turned over to the state.

What is Exempted Under the Pennsylvania Public Records Act?

Exemptions under Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) are restrictions that restrict access to certain confidential or sensitive information or records. The RTKL includes exceptions for 30 categories of records outlined in Section 708(b) of the statute. These records are not available to the general public and can only be accessed by specific parties. Some examples include

  • Records containing the name, home address, or date of birth of minors who are 17 or younger.
  • Medical and psychological records that contain individually identifiable health information.
  • Personal identification records containing all or part of a person's Social Security number, driver's license number, personal financial information, etc.
  • Certain types of government financial information
  • Records containing DNA and RNA information
  • Identities of confidential informants
  • Personnel records
  • Law enforcement records, etc.

Records deemed non-public by law may still be disclosed at the custodian’s discretion and requesters may also appeal requests denied under an exemption through the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR).

How Do I Find Public Records in Pennsylvania?

Any member of the general public can request access to Pennsylvania public records. However, the request process and how an agency responds to requests may vary depending on the type of records sought and the government agency in charge of their maintenance. Generally, interested parties may take the following steps to access public records in Pennsylvania:

  1. Determine which government agency maintains the records that they are seeking.
  2. Decide if copies (certified or unofficial) are needed or if the information provided on any available portal will do
  3. Visit the government website to access open databases if copies are unnecessary and open portals are available.
  4. Determine the agency's Open Records Officer or department to direct their request if copies are required.
  5. Visit the custodian’s website to download request forms if available, or use the OOR's Standard RTK Request Form.
  6. Prepare and submit a specific and concise request via acceptable channels (email, fax, US mail, or in person) along with any required documents, identification, or fees.

Can I Find Free Public Records in Pennsylvania Using Third-Party Sites?

Yes, you can find third-party sources that provide free access to Pennsylvania public records. These sites can serve as supplementary tools for accessing public records but may present some risks, such as unreliable information from vague sources and wasted time. Therefore, interested persons are encouraged to use reputable third-party sites like, which offer secure and easy access to a comprehensive public records database and advanced search tools for streamlined requests. Another significant advantage of these websites is that they are not geographically restricted. As a result, the database is accessible from anywhere.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in Pennsylvania?

The cost of accessing public records in Pennsylvania may vary depending on the records and its custodian. However, the RTKL imposes fee limitations and requires government agencies to charge “reasonable fees” for record duplication, certification, postage, and conversion. Additionally, some records may be available for free either through an agency's public database or if the agency waives fees for record requests deemed to be in the public's interest.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

In Pennsylvania, if a person files a record request with a state or local agency and it is denied, they can file an appeal at no cost and without legal counsel. The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR) enforces the RTKL and handles appeals of denied requests.

Denied requesters can easily file an appeal by using the official OOR appeal form in cases of total denials, partial denials, and deemed denials (when the agency fails to respond) and any unreasonable fees imposed by a custodian.

Additionally, appellants must submit the following documents along with the appeal: 

  • A copy of the request.
  • A copy of the agency's response 
  • A written statement explaining the justification for the requester's claim that the record is a public record
  • A written statement addressing any reasons the agency provided for denying the request.

Alternatively, the OOR also accepts appeals submitted in person, by fax, email, or postal mail. Interested persons may send their appeals to:

Office of Open Records

333 Market Street, 

16th Floor Harrisburg, 

PA 17101-2234

Fax: (717) 425-5343

The appeals submitted via email must be attached as a Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) or PDF file. Note that all appeals must be filed with the Office of Open Records within 15 business days of receiving the agency's response. Interested parties may forfeit the right to appeal and might have to submit a fresh RTK request to the agency if that timeframe expires before providing the OOR with the necessary information.

The deadline for an appeal submitted electronically (via email or fax) is 11:59 p.m., and the deadline for in-person and postal mail submissions is 5:00 p.m. on the 15th business day.

Pennsylvania Public Records
  • 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!