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The state of Pennsylvania has a specific government agency called the Office of Open Records in charge of public records and the Right to Know laws. Although they are not a central repository for records, they provide guidance to the public and have a list of helpful FAQs and videos on their website. They are also the ones to contact if you have trouble getting records, and they will help you file an appeal. All appeals must be made in writing, and the agency named has 15 days to respond.
All government agencies in Pennsylvania create, store, manage, and share public records upon request. Some other types of organizations that create and maintain public records are the courts, law enforcement, legal professionals, licensing bureaus, individuals, and others. Each agency stores and organizes public records according to their own system, and they are allowed to charge a nominal fee for copies.
Pennsylvania defines "records" as "Information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that documents a transaction or activity of an agency and that is created, received or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a transaction, business or activity of the agency. The term includes a document, paper, letter, map, book, tape, photograph, film or sound recording, information stored or maintained electronically, and a data-processed or image-processed document." They define agency as "A Commonwealth agency, a local agency, a judicial agency, or a legislative agency."
The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission is the government agency in charge of storing, organizing, and sharing historical public records. Along with vital historical records, they also keep land records, ancestry information, statistics, and many other types of records. You can visit them in person or peruse their online collections.
The Pennsylvania Office of Open Recordsm provides explicit guidelines on how to request public records. Their instructions are outlined below:
If you have issues getting records, contact the Office of Open Records for assistance.
Pennsylvania has a helpful online web portal where the general public can request criminal records easily. The cost is $27, each with an additional charge for a notary fee. The website is called the Pennsylvania Access to the Criminal History (PATCH) System. They take credit cards for payment. Expunged records will not show up in this system. You can also consult court records for criminal records and visit local law enforcement in person to request records.
Some common types of criminal records in Pennsylvania include (but are not limited to):
Pennsylvania uses a unified court system and has everything consolidated in one place. Court records in Pennsylvania are created, stored, and maintained by The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania. They have a website with public records searches for court cases, statistics, financial records, public records policies, and more. They even supply the forms necessary to request public court records.
Some types of court records in Pennsylvania include:
The court system in Pennsylvania consists of four levels beginning with the Supreme Court at the top, then the Court of Appeals, and then Tax and Circuit Court, and finally County, Justice and Municipal Court.
You can look up Pennsylvania arrest records through the handy Pennsylvania Access to the Criminal History (PATCH) System or through local law enforcement. The PATCH system has up-to-date arrest records as well as historical criminal information. You do have to pay a fee when requesting records.
Some different types of arrests records in Pennsylvania are:
Pennsylvania's Department of Health is the government agency in charge of vital records. They keep birth, death, and fetal death certificates going back to 1906. You can easily request a copy of yours online, through the mail or in person. They do charge fees for this service. This agency also handles adoption information.
Along with criminal, court, arrest, and vital records, other types of public records you can find in the state of Pennsylvania include, but are not limited to:
Some information in Pennsylvania is not public record. Personal details like the following items are among them:
Some other exceptions include:
A record, the disclosure of which: