Facsnet.org Logo

Pennsylvania Public Records

The Right-To-Know Law (RTKL) in Pennsylvania empowers the state’s citizens with the right to access government information. This law, effective from January 1, 2009, supersedes the prior legislation where government records were not automatically public and required individuals to demonstrate the government’s intention to disclose them.

The Pennsylvania Office of Open Records (OOR)    is charged with implementing the RTKL. It facilitates citizen access to government records and manages the appeal process for requests that are initially denied.

How to request Pennsylvania Public Records?

To request public records in Pennsylvania under the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL), follow these steps:

Table of Contents

To request Pennsylvania public records, follow these steps:

Where to find Public Records in Pennsylvania

Here’s where you can find various public records in Pennsylvania

Vital Records (Birth, Death, Marriage, Divorce):

The agency responsible for maintaining and issuing birth, death, and adoption records in Pennsylvania is the Department of Health's Bureau of Health Statistics and Registries.

Property Records:

In Pennsylvania, property and asset records are considered public information and can be accessed through the county courthouse where the property is situated. The Pennsylvania Treasury offers a dedicated website where you can find information regarding unclaimed property. To access this resource, please use the Pennsylvania Treasury Website.

Business Records:

To find business records in Pennsylvania, you can explore several sources and resources: Pennsylvania Business Entity Search, BBB of Western Pennsylvania, or Pennsylvania Department of Revenue.

Court Records:

Pennsylvania court records are readily 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 offers an online portal for accessing court case information, allowing users to search for cases by name, case number, and location.

Driving Records:

Driving records typically contain information about an individual's driving history, including details such as traffic violations, accidents, DUI convictions, and more. In Pennsylvania, the agency responsible for maintaining driving records is the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, also known as PennDOT.

Professional Licenses

Professional license records in Pennsylvania are typically maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of State's Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs.

Pennsylvania State Archives:

To access historical records in Pennsylvania, you can visit the Pennsylvania State Archives, which houses a comprehensive collection of documents, manuscripts, and historical materials. You can find more information in the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Are Pennsylvani Public Records Available Online?

The majority of public records in Pennsylvania can be accessed via the Internet. The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania offers a free online case search tool for court case information. You can also find various other records online, including birth and death records, business filings, and property records. Additionally, third-party websites like InfoTracer offer a fee-based comprehensive database of public records.

State Public Records Law

The Pennsylvania State Public Records Law, governed by the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL), outlines several key aspects regarding public records:

Which records are public in Pennsylvania

Which records are not public in Pennsylvania

Under the Pennsylvania Right-To-Know Law, there are specific types of records that are exempt from public disclosure.

Pennsylvania Background Checks

Pennsylvania background checks are a process used to gather and review someone’s personal and public records. These checks are commonly used for various purposes, such as employment screening, tenant screening, or personal investigation. In Pennsylvania, the scope of a background check can include a variety of information, depending on the nature of the check and the authority of the person or entity requesting it.

What Can Be Included In a Background Check Report?

Criminal History

This includes any history of misdemeanors, felonies, arrests, convictions, and any ongoing criminal cases. Pennsylvania’s Access To Criminal History (PATCH) system is often used for this purpose.

Employment History

This covers past employment details including job titles, duration of employment, and sometimes reasons for leaving the job.

Education Verification

Confirmation of educational credentials claimed by the individual, such as degrees and certifications from academic institutions.

Credit History

For certain positions, especially those involving financial responsibilities, credit reports may be reviewed to assess financial reliability.

Driving Records

This can include driving license status, traffic violations, accidents, DUI records, and other driving-related information, especially relevant for positions requiring driving.

Civil Records

This includes records of civil litigation, such as lawsuits, bankruptcies, legal judgments, and liens, which might be relevant for financial or legal positions.

Professional Licenses

Verification of any professional licenses the individual holds, ensuring they are current and in good standing.

Personal References

Checking references provided by the individual to gather insights into their character and work ethic.

Pennsylvania Court Records

Overview of the Pennsylvania court system and its Structure

The Pennsylvania court system is a comprehensive and multi-tiered judicial system, designed to handle a wide range of legal matters. Here’s an overview of its structure:

  • Magisterial District Courts and Philadelphia Municipal Court: These are the lowest level courts in Pennsylvania, handling minor criminal offenses (like traffic violations and small claims), preliminary hearings for more serious crimes, and civil cases involving smaller sums of money. In Philadelphia, the Municipal Court performs a similar function.
  • Courts of Common Pleas: As the primary trial courts, they have broad jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases. They handle major civil cases, serious criminal offenses, family law cases, and appeals from the Magisterial District Courts and Philadelphia Municipal Court. These courts are organized into 60 judicial districts across the state.
  • Pennsylvania Intermediate Appellate Courts: This level consists of two courts – the Superior Court and the Commonwealth Court. The Superior Court primarily hears appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas involving criminal, civil, and family law matters. The Commonwealth Court is unique; it handles cases involving state and local governments and regulatory agencies, and it also hears appeals from the Courts of Common Pleas in certain civil actions.
  • Pennsylvania Supreme Court: As the highest court in the state, it has seven justices and holds discretionary jurisdiction over appeals from the lower courts. It has the final word on matters of state law and also oversees the administration of the state’s court system.

Types of Pennsylvania Court Records

Pennsylvania Civil and Small Claims Records

Pennsylvania Criminal Records

Family Records

Traffic Records

Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Records

Pennsylvania Probate Records

Restrictions, Limitations, and Confidentiality

Pennsylvania court records, while generally accessible to the public, are subject to certain restrictions, limitations, and confidentiality measures to protect sensitive information and privacy. Some records are deemed confidential and are not available for public viewing; these typically include cases involving juveniles, certain family law matters like child custody or divorce proceedings, and any cases that a judge has ordered sealed. Additionally, personal information such as Social Security numbers, victims’ names in sensitive cases, and details that could compromise an individual’s safety are often redacted. The Right-to-Know Law in Pennsylvania also plays a role in determining what court information can be disclosed, ensuring that while the public has access to judicial proceedings and outcomes, the privacy and rights of individuals involved are also safeguarded. These measures reflect a balance between the principles of open justice and individual privacy rights.

What do these records contain

Pennsylvania Public Vital Records

Marriage and Divorce Records: In Pennsylvania, both marriage and divorce records are maintained at the county level and are accessible to the public, albeit with certain procedures for obtaining them. Any US citizen can generally access divorce records, which are usually kept in the Prothonotary’s Office in the county where the divorce was finalized, with some counties potentially restricting public viewing. Certified copies of divorce records are available only to the parties involved in the divorce. Marriage records, similarly, are obtainable from the courthouse in the county where the marriage license was issued but not from the Division of Vital Records. To access either marriage or divorce records, an individual must provide the necessary information for the search and may be required to pay applicable fees, especially for physical document requests. While the process for accessing these records can vary by county, they provide an essential resource for legal, personal, and genealogical purposes​​​​​​.

Birth and Death Records:In Pennsylvania, birth and death records are managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health through the Division of Vital Records. Birth records since 1906 and death records since 1906 are available to the public. However, access to certified copies of these records is restricted to authorized individuals such as family members, legal representatives, and those with a legal right to the document. Birth records are essential for various purposes, including citizenship, inheritance, and personal identification, while death records are often used for estate settlement, insurance claims, and family genealogy. To obtain a copy, an individual must submit a request to the Division of Vital Records, either online or by mail, and pay the necessary fees. This centralized system ensures the records are preserved and accessible while maintaining the necessary privacy and security protocols.

Pennsylvania Public Criminal Records

Definition and Types of Criminal Records in Pennsylvania

Criminal records in Pennsylvania consist of official records documenting an individual’s criminal history. These records are maintained across various levels, including municipal, county, and state jurisdictions, and originate from different criminal courts within the county and state. The level of detail in these records may vary based on the jurisdiction. As public records, criminal records in Pennsylvania are accessible to anyone who wishes to view them. This accessibility is ensured by the state’s Right To Know Law, which allows the public to access and inspect criminal records.

Information Included in Criminal Records

Pennsylvania criminal records typically contain a variety of information pertaining to an individual’s interactions with the criminal justice system. The details found in these records can include:

  • Personal Information: This includes the individual’s name, date of birth, nationality, and sometimes physical characteristics like height, weight, and any distinguishing features or tattoos.
  • Photograph and Fingerprints: A mugshot and fingerprints are usually included, especially in records of arrests and convictions.
  • Arrest Records: Details about arrests, including the date, location, the law enforcement agency involved, and the reasons for the arrest.
  • Charges: Specific charges filed against the individual, which may include both misdemeanors and felonies.
  • Court Records: Information about court proceedings, including trial data, court decisions, and the outcome of the case (e.g., conviction, acquittal, or dismissal of charges).
  • Sentencing Information: If the individual was convicted, the record will detail the sentence imposed, which could include jail or prison time, probation, fines, or community service.
  • Incarceration Records: For those who have been imprisoned, details about the incarceration, including the facility, duration, and any instances of parole or release.
  • Probation or Parole Details: If applicable, information about probation or parole, including the terms and duration.

Police Records and Reports

These records encompass details of incidents and investigations conducted by police departments across the state, including arrests, accident reports, and other law enforcement activities. For accessing police records and reports in Pennsylvania, you can visit the Pennsylvania State Police Records page.

Booking Records and Reports

Booking records in Pennsylvania provide information on individuals who have been arrested and processed by law enforcement, detailing personal information, charges, and the booking process. These records can be accessed through Pennsylvania's Unified Judicial System, which offers comprehensive public access to court records online and upon request.

DUI Records

DUI records in Pennsylvania contain information about individuals arrested and convicted for driving under the influence, including details of the offense, court proceedings, and any resulting penalties. To access DUI records, one can visit the Criminal History Background Check page of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Felony and Misdemeanor Records

These records include detailed information about an individual's criminal charges and convictions, ranging from lesser offenses (misdemeanors) to more serious crimes (felonies). To find felony and misdemeanor records in Pennsylvania, visit the Unified Judicial System's public records access.

Parole Records

Pennsylvania Parole Board provides access to parole records, which include details on individuals currently under parole supervision in the state.

Probation Records

Probation records in Pennsylvania can be accessed through the Pennsylvania State Police, where one can find information regarding individuals currently on probation.

Warrant Search

In Pennsylvania, warrants are public court records. Interested persons can search for outstanding warrant information through the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History (PATCH) of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Inmate And Jail Records

Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) system offers public access to offender information.

What you can find

In a Pennsylvania inmate search, you can find a range of information about individuals who are currently incarcerated or have been incarcerated in the state’s prison system. This typically includes:

  • Inmate Identifiers: Personal information such as the inmate’s name, inmate number, date of birth, and sometimes a photograph.
  • Incarceration Details: Information about the inmate’s current status, including the facility where they are being held, their custody level, and housing location.
  • Criminal Information: Details of the crimes for which the inmate was convicted, including the type of offense, the county of conviction, and the sentencing information.
  • Sentence Length and Parole Eligibility: Information about the length of the inmate’s sentence, as well as their eligibility for parole or other forms of early release.
  • Admission and Release Dates: The dates when the inmate was admitted to the prison system and their expected release date, if applicable.
  • Behavioral Records: Some inmate searches may include information about the inmate’s behavior while incarcerated, including any disciplinary actions or commendations.

How to Conduct an Inmate Lookup in Pennsylvania

Performing a Pennsylvania Inmate Search is quite simple and accessible to everyone. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Pennsylvania DOC Inmate Locator: A free name-based search tool updated daily by the Department of Corrections, reflecting changes in inmate registration and status.
  • State Parolee Data: The system includes essential information about state parolees, such as name, race, release date, and county of residence.
  • Exclusivity to State-Run Prisons: The tool is limited to state-run prisons in Pennsylvania and does not cover county jails, federal prisons, or juvenile detention centers.
  • County Jail Inmate Search: To locate an inmate in a county jail, contact the sheriff’s office that operates the jail and apprehend the inmate.
  • Sheriff’s Office Websites: Some sheriff’s offices provide websites with inmate search functions or downloadable lists of incarcerated individuals for county jail searches.
  • Pennsylvania SAVIN: This tool provides updates on individuals detained in state prisons and county jails, aiding in tracking their status.
  • Federal Prison Inmate Search: For inmates in federal prisons, inquiries should be directed to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP) or the specific facility, with the option to use the FBOP Inmate Tool.
  • Juvenile Detention Records: In Pennsylvania, juvenile records are private until the offender turns 18, making access limited to family members and authorized individuals who may contact the Bureau of Juvenile Justice Services (BJJS) or the facility for information.

Federal Prisons

Can I look up mugshots in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, you can access mugshots, but there are specific conditions and limitations to this process. Mugshots are often included in arrest records, which are generally public information and can be accessed through the respective law enforcement agency that made the arrest. Additionally, some Pennsylvania counties or municipalities provide online databases where the public can view mugshots. Under the state’s Right to Know Law, governmental records, including mugshots, are accessible to the public, although access might be limited due to privacy concerns or if it interferes with ongoing investigations. For mugshots not available online, individuals can submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the relevant law enforcement agency. While these images are a matter of public record, it’s important to consider the ethical and legal aspects regarding privacy and the presumption of innocence. Furthermore, there are commercial websites that compile mugshots from various sources, but their legality and reliability can be questionable. It is always recommended to use such sensitive information responsibly and within the bounds of the law.

Pennsylvania Arrest Records

Pennsylvania arrest records are official documents that provide details about arrests made by law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania.

What Do These Records Contain:

These records typically contain various types of information, such as:

  • Personal Information: This may include the name, date of birth, physical description (height, weight, eye and hair color), and possibly a photograph of the person arrested.
  • Arrest Details: Information about the arrest itself, such as the date and time of the arrest, the location where it occurred, the law enforcement agency responsible for the arrest, and the names of the arresting officers.
  • Charges: Details about the specific charges or allegations against the individual. This could include the nature of the offense, whether it’s a misdemeanor or felony, and any related statutes or legal codes.
  • Bail/Bond Information: If applicable, details about bail or bond set for the individual’s release.
  • Case Information: In some cases, arrest records may include preliminary information about the court case, such as case numbers, court dates, and information about the presiding judge or court.

It’s important to note that an arrest record does not indicate guilt or conviction; it simply records the fact that an individual was arrested on suspicion of an offense. Convictions are documented separately in court records or criminal history records.

In Pennsylvania, access to arrest records may vary depending on local laws and regulations. Generally, these records are considered public records and can be accessed through requests to the appropriate law enforcement agencies or through online public record databases. However, there may be restrictions on access to certain sensitive information or in cases involving minors or specific legal protections.

Pennsylvania Property and Asset Records Online

Here are direct links to websites where you can find Pennsylvania property and asset records online:

  • Real Property Official Records Search: This website allows you to search for real estate ownership records in Pennsylvania. The state is divided into recorder districts, each with a Recorder of Deeds responsible for recording real estate documents.
  • Pennsylvania State Records: This portal provides access to property records stored by Pennsylvania’s Recorders of Deeds, as per the state’s Right To Know Law. It includes records accessible through local government offices and third-party websites.
  • Pennsylvania Public Records Search: This resource offers searches for assets in Pennsylvania, including property and business ownership, professional license verification, and other relevant records, along with details about bankruptcies and liens.
  • Free Pennsylvania Property Records – PubRecord.org: This site provides free access to various property records from government offices and official databases, including tax assessments, deeds, property ownership, and zoning information.
  • Pennsylvania Property Records Search – The County Office: Here, you can freely search for various property records in Pennsylvania, such as property assessments, unclaimed property, deeds, and mortgage documents.

Unclaimed Properties and Assets

To find unclaimed property and assets in Pennsylvania, you can follow these steps:

  • Visit the Pennsylvania Treasury’s Unclaimed Property Website: The Pennsylvania Treasury Department maintains a database of unclaimed property and assets. This includes things like forgotten bank accounts, stocks, uncashed checks, insurance policies, safe deposit box contents, and more.
  • Search the Database: On the Treasury’s website, you can use their search tool to look for unclaimed property. Enter your name (or the name of your business or a deceased relative if you’re their heir) to check if there are any assets in your name.
  • File a Claim: If you find property or assets under your name, you will need to file a claim. The website typically provides instructions on how to do this. You may need to provide proof of identity and/or documentation proving your right to the unclaimed property.
  • Wait for the Claim to be Processed: After submitting your claim, there will be a processing period during which the Treasury will verify your claim. This process can vary in length depending on the complexity of the claim.
  • Receive Your Property or Assets: Once your claim is approved, the Treasury will return the unclaimed property or assets to you. This could be in the form of a check, securities, or the contents of a safe deposit box, depending on what was unclaimed.

Driving Records

To obtain your driving record in Pennsylvania, follow these steps:

  • Determine the Type of Record Needed: Pennsylvania offers different types of driving records, such as a 3-year, 10-year, or full history report. Decide which one you need based on your requirements (for employment, insurance, personal use, etc.).
  • Request Online Through PennDOT: The easiest and fastest way to get your driving record is through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) website. You will need to create an account or log in if you already have one. Once logged in, you can request and pay for your driving record online.
  • Mail-In Request: If you prefer, you can also request your driving record by mail. You will need to complete Form DL-503 (Request for Driver Information). This form can be downloaded from the PennDOT website. Fill out the form, include the required fee, and mail it to the address provided on the form.
  • Visit a PennDOT Office: Alternatively, you can visit a PennDOT office in person to request your driving record. It’s advisable to check the office hours and required documents before visiting.
  • Fees: Be prepared to pay a fee for your driving record. The fee varies depending on the type of record you are requesting.
  • Provide Necessary Information: Whether you request online, by mail, or in person, you will need to provide certain information, such as your driver’s license number, full name, date of birth, and social security number.
  • Processing Time: The time it takes to receive your driving record will vary depending on the method of request. Online requests are typically processed faster than mail-in requests.
  • Remember, your driving record will contain sensitive personal information, so it’s important to keep it secure. Also, be aware that there are different versions of driving records available for different purposes, so make sure to request the correct one based on your needs.

Civil Driving Infractions

Civil driving infractions in Pennsylvania are non-criminal traffic offenses that usually result in fines and points on your driving record, rather than jail time. These infractions are considered less severe than criminal traffic offenses but can still have significant consequences, especially if they accumulate. Common civil driving infractions in Pennsylvania include:

  • Speeding: Exceeding the posted speed limit or driving too fast for conditions.
  • Failure to Stop or Yield: Not stopping at a stop sign, red light, or failing to yield right-of-way when required.
  • Seat Belt Violations: Not wearing a seat belt or failing to ensure that passengers are properly restrained.
  • Equipment Violations: Driving a vehicle with faulty equipment, such as broken lights, malfunctioning brakes, or illegal modifications.
  • Lane Violations: Improper lane changes, driving in the wrong lane, or failure to use turn signals.
  • Expired Registration or Inspection: Operating a vehicle with an expired registration or inspection sticker.
  • Parking Violations: Illegal parking, parking in a handicapped space without authorization, or parking in a no-parking zone.
  • Texting or Using a Handheld Device While Driving: Pennsylvania has laws against texting while driving and the use of handheld devices for certain activities while driving.

Pennsylvania White Pages - Access to People, Addresses, and Other Non-Official Information

Address Search ​

To conduct an address search in Pennsylvania, you can utilize various online tools and resources. One common method is to use property and tax assessment databases provided by local county government websites. Most counties in Pennsylvania have online portals where you can search for property information by address, owner’s name, or parcel number. These databases often provide details like property owner, tax assessment history, and property characteristics. Another option is to use online public records databases, which can offer a range of information linked to an address, including property records, resident information, and sometimes historical data. Websites like Whitepages or Spokeo can be used for this purpose, as they aggregate public records and offer address search capabilities. Additionally, if you’re looking for more detailed or specific information about a property, such as zoning, permits, or deeds, you may visit or contact the local Recorder of Deeds office or municipal building office in the area where the property is located. These offices hold detailed records about properties in their jurisdiction and can provide in-depth information that might not be available online. Remember, while many of these resources are free, some might require a fee, especially for detailed or certified records.

People Search​

To conduct a people search in Pennsylvania, you can use a variety of online resources and databases. A common starting point is social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram, where you can search for a person by name. These platforms often provide current information about a person’s location, occupation, and contact details. For more official and detailed information, you might consider using public records databases. Websites like Whitepages, Spokeo, or Intelius specialize in aggregating data from public records, including addresses, phone numbers, and sometimes even background information like criminal records or property ownership. Pennsylvania’s state and county government websites can also be useful, particularly if you’re looking for voter registration records, property ownership, or court records. For more specific searches, such as finding a missing person or conducting a background check, professional services like private investigators can provide comprehensive search capabilities, though they typically charge a fee for their services. Additionally, public libraries in Pennsylvania may offer access to reference tools and databases that can assist in people searches. It’s important to use this information responsibly and in compliance with privacy laws and regulations, especially when handling sensitive or personal data.

Can I Search By a Phone Number and Identify The Owner?

Yes, you can search by a phone number to identify its owner in Pennsylvania using several online tools and services. One popular method is to use online reverse phone lookup services like Whitepages, Spokeo, or Intelius. These platforms allow you to enter the phone number and provide information about the owner, such as their name and address. While some basic information might be available for free, more detailed reports often require a fee. Additionally, entering the phone number into search engines like Google or Bing can sometimes yield results, especially if the number is linked to a business or has been listed publicly. Social media platforms may also be useful, as some allow user searches by phone number, depending on individual privacy settings. Moreover, there are various smartphone apps that offer caller ID services or reverse phone lookup capabilities, which can help identify the caller’s name or the location from where the call was made.

How to Do a License Plate Lookup in Pennsylvania

Conducting a license plate lookup in Pennsylvania to obtain personal information about the vehicle’s owner is restricted due to privacy laws and regulations. However, there are certain legal ways to obtain information associated with a license plate:

  • Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT): For specific purposes such as accident investigation, litigation, or vehicle recall, you can request information from PennDOT. This typically requires a legitimate reason and the submission of appropriate forms. Personal information from vehicle records is not available to the general public without a valid reason as defined by law.
  • Law Enforcement: If you have a legitimate and legal reason (like a hit-and-run incident), you can report the license plate number to the police. Law enforcement agencies have access to license plate information and can use it as part of their investigations.
  • Private Investigators: Licensed private investigators have the means to obtain certain information that might not be directly accessible to the public. They must adhere to legal guidelines when conducting such searches.
  • Insurance Companies: In the case of an accident, insurance companies can conduct license plate lookups as part of the claim process.
  • Online Services for General Information: There are online services that offer license plate lookups to provide general information about the vehicle, like make, model, year, and potentially some history reports. These services do not provide personal owner information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who and why can request public records?

In Pennsylvania, public records can be requested by any member of the public, including individuals, corporations, and media organizations, for any reason, as the state supports transparency and open government under the Right-to-Know Law. This law does not require the requester to state the reason for their request, ensuring broad public access to records.

Are there fees associated with requesting public records?

While many public records in Pennsylvania are available for free, especially if accessed online or inspected in person, there can be fees associated with requesting copies of public records. These fees cover the cost of duplication, postage, and, in some cases, specialized document retrieval or redaction.

Are public records Free to access?

Not all public records in Pennsylvania are free to access; some may require a fee, particularly for physical copies or specialized documents. The fees are usually nominal and meant to cover the costs of copying, mailing, or retrieving the records.

What is the response time for public records requests?

The response time for public records requests in Pennsylvania is typically within five business days from the date the agency receives the request. However, this period can be extended for valid reasons, such as the need to redact confidential information or to retrieve records from a remote location.

Can my request be rejected?

Yes, your request for public records in Pennsylvania can be rejected. Reasons for rejection include requests for records that are exempt under the Right-to-Know Law, such as personal identification information, internal deliberations of agencies, and records that, if disclosed, would jeopardize safety or security.

Scroll to Top