Pennsylvania Public Records

The government of Pennsylvania has long made provisions for granting access to its records. The public can access and copy many of the state’s records.

Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law gives individuals the constitutional right to access, copy and see the public records of the state of Pennsylvania. You don’t have to disclose the purpose for requesting the information. The general public can request public records from all judicial, legislative, commonwealth and local agencies. Records from state offices, schools, state boards and authorities can also be requested. The documents classified as public records include any sound recording, map, photograph, book, tape, electric data or film received, created or retained with a business transaction or activity with a state agency.

Pennsylvania Criminal Records

The requests for Pennsylvania criminal history checks are processed and supervised by the Pennsylvania State Police. The PATCH (Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History) tool, which is a database that is preserved by the Pennsylvania State Police, is generally searchable by both non-registered and registered users. You will have to pay a non-refundable fee for every search. The website’s customers are charged for duplicate submissions, misspellings or user errors.

The search results typically include all charges with an existing pending warrant issued, all past convictions as well as all charges and arrest records that are not older than 3 years from the arrest date. You can find the database on The PATCH tool webpage of the website of the Pennsylvania State Police.

The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections preserves arrest records as well as inmate and jail records and also makes them available to the general public through an online database that can easily be searched. You can search the database by first name, last name, inmate number, sex, race, date of birth and location. The record found will state the inmate’s name, date of birth, race, complexion, citizenship, housing location and height. You can find the database on the official website of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. You can check the Pennsylvania’s Victim Notification Service (VINE) Profile for more information about Pennsylvania’s inmate and jail records.

Pennsylvania Court Records

The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania oversees and distributes Pennsylvania Court Records. You can search online for information regarding individual court case for free. These searches typically contain information about civil cases, traffic cases, criminal cases, landlord-tenant cases, and non-traffic cases. For you to search for the court records, go to the web portal of the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Vital Records

Pennsylvania Vital Records include death and birth records that have been preserved since 1906. The records are maintained and distributed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. For you to gain access to these records, your name must be on the certificate, or you must be a legal guardian or an immediate family member, and you must be 18 years or older.  Immediate family members, those with the Power of Attorney and the legal representative of the estate of the decedent are eligible to request for death certificates.

  • Birth records: The state of Pennsylvania did not enact a statewide registration of births until 1906 and full compliance was achieved by 1915. While birth registration was never required before this time, some birth registration catalogs actually occurred from 1851 to 1855 in clerk and county offices. You can obtain birth records from 1906 to 1910 from Pennsylvania State Archives. You are only allowed to view copies of birth records and not obtain them unless they are older than 105 years.
  • Death records: The law requiring registration of birth in Pennsylvania was signed in 1906. Before this time, death records in the state were recorded in county, city and town offices. The state required deaths to be recorded from 1851-1855 in the county where the death had occurred. All deaths from 1906 to 1965 are maintained by the Pennsylvania State Archives. You can only get copies of death records that are already 50 years old. Otherwise, you are only allowed to view the records.
  • Marriage records: There were few marriage records prior to 1885 and you can send your request to the Marriage License Clerk at the particular courthouse where the event took place for you to obtain these records. Most counties began registering for marriages in October 1885.
  • Divorce records: Divorce proceedings exist even before 1885. These records are available at the Marriage License Clerk at the appropriate courthouse.

The government of Pennsylvania considers state records as public property and it does have clear provisions for granting the public access to these records. Follow the appropriate procedure to obtain the information you need.

Pennsylvania state court system

Understanding how the system of Pennsylvania state court works is very important as it helps you find court records easily.

Pennsylvania Courts Overview

To make your work easier, start searching for court records in Pennsylvania by simply going to courts by county.

The trial court system of Pennsylvania State consists of Pittsburgh Municipal Court, Philadelphia Municipal Court, Magistrate District Courts, and Courts of Common Pleas.

Courts of Common Pleas

Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas have general jurisdiction to handle all types of cases, but typically handle only those cases that other courts have no jurisdiction over.

Criminal cases generally handled by these courts include lesser-included offenses and felonies. Civil cases handled by these courts include general civil claims of any disputed amount. Besides, they also handle delayed birth certificates, adoptions, juvenile matters, domestic relations, some arbitration reviews and appeals of decisions from some administrative agencies.

All Court of Common Pleas have Orphans’ Court divisions for handling estates, termination of parental rights, trusts, guardianships, adoptions, wills and trusts. They may also have a Domestic Relations Section and a Family Court than hears spousal and child support and other related matters.

They may also exercise jurisdiction over certain types of cases that are beyond the jurisdiction limit of traffic courts and municipal courts. This is true with the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, which also share jurisdiction to handle small claims cases.

Magistrate District Courts

Pennsylvania Magistrate District Courts have general jurisdiction to handle certain types of criminal and civil cases.

Criminal cases typically handled by these courts include certain DUI cases, most preliminary hearings, most summery offenses, some ordinance violations, and certain third-degree misdemeanors.

Civil cases typically handled by these courts include some general civil claims of specified financial limits and certain landlord-tenant cases. These courts cannot handle cases against or brought by the State.

Philadelphia Municipal Court

This court has limited jurisdiction to handle certain types of traffic, criminal, and civil cases within the territorial borders of the County and city of Philadelphia.

Criminal case heard by the Philadelphia Municipal Court include most summery offenses, preliminary hearings, some motor vehicle offenses, and offenses that have potential punishment of less than 5 years of incarceration. It doesn’t offer jury trials. However, it may conduct a jury trial if a request is made and granted for a new trial.

Civil case heard by this court include certain local tax matters that involve less than $15,000, breech of contracts, landlord-tenant cases, actions to stop certain nuisances, and some general civil claims with less than $10,000.

The Philadelphia Municipal Court shares limited jurisdiction with the Court of Common Pleas.

Pittsburg Municipal Court

This court hears certain types of traffic, criminal and housing cases. Criminal cases generally handled by this court include traffic offenses, summery offenses, violations of certain city ordinances, and preliminary hearings for all criminal cases that take place in Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Municipal Court can also hear cases for Emergency Protection.

The Official Website of Pennsylvania County

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Pennsylvania Arrests and Inmate Search

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