The Pennsylvania State police keep most criminal records for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the Central Repository; however, some records are kept by individual courts. Anyone can access basic information on criminal convictions in Pennsylvania; sometimes, a small fee is charged. Criminal record searches can be conducted online using Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History (or PATCH).
What Are Criminal Records?
Criminal records are those documents that describe a person’s criminal history. They can include the local, state, and federal criminal information. The record may also include other information about the person, such as their address, date of birth, nationality, name, any aliases they have, distinguishing physical features, fingerprints, and a mugshot.
Your criminal records may include:
- Past arrest information
- Current and pending charges
- Type of charges and whether they are misdemeanors or felonies
- Acquitted charges
- Dismissed charges
How Are Criminal Records Used?
Criminal records can be used in many ways, but generally are part of a background check. Background checks occur for several reasons including
- Employment, where a company wants to know about you as a potential employee. Pennsylvania’s law mandates background checks for all individuals who have jobs where they will work with children.
- School admittance, such as when you apply to a college or university
- Property rental
- Security clearance
- The purchase of weapons or firearms, since felons are not able to purchase or own weapons in most cases
- Military service
- Fostering or adopting a child
- Voter registration
- When you want to travel internationally and obtain a visa or for purposes such as naturalization or immigration
- For law enforcement purposes, such as a part of a criminal investigation
- Volunteering, especially if you’ll be working with children, elders, or money
How Can Someone Access Your Criminal Records?
Basic arrest records and court decisions are considered public records in Pennsylvania and fall under Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law. You don’t need to give your consent for citizens to access them. The citizen can access them via PATCH or court records. Other than law enforcement officials, those who wish to access more personal, nonpublic information such as their height, weight, and defining features will need your consent.
The general public also can access additional background information such as divorce or marital history, DUI records, and past addresses.
Pennsylvania law requires all those who have committed sexually violent offenses after Dec. 20, 2012 to register as sex offenders for a period of 15 years to life, depending upon the crime. The public can access this information via the Pennsylvania State Police Megan’s Law website.
How Can You Request a Criminal Record?
If you want to request your criminal record or another person’s, then you can do so by going to the PATCH website and following the instructions. You may request criminal and civil court records by visiting the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania portal.
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