Are you wondering how to find court records in Pennsylvania? If so, you are certainly not alone. Pennsylvania court records are becoming more and more difficult to access as they become more and more “hidden”. While there is no way around it, the process of getting a copy of a case file can be frustrating if you don’t know where to look.
However, given that most people who find themselves in need of these records have little knowledge about the law or how to access them, I thought I would offer a few tips on how to find your record from start to finish.
How do I get my criminal history?
The first thing you will want to do is figure out which agency has jurisdiction over your case. This will usually be the district attorney’s office since most cases end with an arrest or indictment for either a misdemeanor or felony crime. Some counties (like Philadelphia) may have their own police department instead of a DA’s office so make sure and check with the local authorities before heading over there though.
If none of the agencies listed in your police department’s contact information have jurisdiction over the case you are looking for, check with neighboring agencies by calling their main number and asking. If all of those options fail, then it is time to get creative. Do note that you can also use white pages to find out how to find court records in Pennsylvania.
What do I need to find my criminal history?
In order to find a copy of your criminal history, you will first need a few basic things. First, make sure that you know where your court file is located. You can often find this information on any settlements or dismissal forms (called “dismissal papers” or “court orders” if they were issued by an administrative judge rather than a trial judge). If not, there should be someone at the courthouse who can tell you where it is stored within the building.
Second, make sure that you have all of your paperwork in hand including whatever documents may have been filed during any hearings related to your case, such as plea agreements, motions, and other legal documents relevant to your case. Once you have gathered all of the necessary paperwork and are ready to head to the courthouse, follow these steps:
Step 1: Get a copy of your criminal history from the court clerk’s office
First, if you have already located your criminal case file at the courthouse then it is time for step two. If not, then you will need to locate where this file is stored on site. The easiest way to do so would be to ask someone who works at the courthouse or speak with one of their supervisors about finding it in person. You should also know that many district attorney’s offices now keep their case files inside secure archives which they rarely allow anyone access to without an appointment first.
However, since these records can contain sensitive personal information such as medical records and social security numbers they are typically only accessible by appointment only, even under those circumstances, so make sure that you get in touch with them ahead of time before heading over there (or call them directly on their main number).
Step 2: Find out if there is a public access law in your area
You may also want to check with the local public access board to find out if they have any sort of policy or guideline regarding how long cases are kept on file and what information can be released. If you do not know the name of this agency, then look it up on your state’s website (or ask someone who works at the courthouse).
In addition, some states, like New York, even go as far as to classify certain offenses as misdemeanors which means that you will only need to pay a small fee for copies of your case records instead of paying fees for each separate copy since you paid one price for your entire case file instead of being charged separately for each individual piece. Other states however will charge you separately for each copy so make sure and read their policies before heading over there!
Step 3: Wait until the court releases your criminal history records
When all of this is done, the clerk will then give you a copy of your criminal history record. You can then take this to the courthouse or district attorney’s office (or some other law enforcement agency) and ask for it. You’ll be happy to know that all states have laws requiring these agencies to release records upon request, but only when they are relevant to a criminal investigation and not just requests made by private parties like lawyers or employers seeking background information on their potential employees.
In many cases, however, including Pennsylvania, if you are requesting a copy of your criminal history from the court, they may ask you why you want it in order for them to determine whether or not they should grant your request. If so, please feel free to tell them exactly what is going on with your case so that they can make an informed decision as well!
Step 4: Find out how long they keep your records
If you have located a public access law within your state, then simply contact them directly either by phone or email, and ask them what their policy is regarding how long they keep criminal history records on file (if any). You will likely need to provide some sort of ID along with the letter that you wrote requesting this information as well so make sure that you have all of these things ready before heading over there! Some states may require that you pay a small fee in addition to the cost of copies before releasing this information while others will be willing to provide you with this information for free.
Step 5: Find out if your criminal record is being expunged
You can do this by contacting the court that originally released it or via their website (if available). If your criminal record has been expunged (meaning it no longer exists) then you will need to contact the court that originally released it and ask them if they have already sent all of their records into their database so that they can be destroyed.
Be sure and look up the phone number of this agency online so that you can call them directly instead of having to leave a message with an answering service! If there is a way for you to contact someone at this agency online, then do so as well because most offices require people who make requests like these through email or snail mail only.