The laws of the State of Pennsylvania are quite open when it comes to providing criminal records to private citizens or interested parties. Signed on February 2008, the “Open Records Law”, better known as “Right to Know Law”, states that most government records have to be fully accessible to the public. This includes criminal records and criminal history records. There are, although, thirty exemptions to this law. These exemptions can contradict the freedom that the Right to Know Law gives in order to perform background checks. Specifically, the exemption that states that some records may be shielded from public disclosure if their release would likely result in physical harm or danger to the security of the subject of the records. However, this exemption would only be applicable in cases where the offences committed are heinous enough to snare the hate of the citizenship, which would probably put the offenders in the database of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections or the sex offender registry.
All the criminal records are maintained and managed by the Pennsylvania State Police Central Repository. This institution is the responsible for handling the records to interested citizens and to other law enforcement agencies. The State Police Central Repository manages the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History (PATCH) system, which is an online query tool that can be used to access criminal records in the state. The fee for using this system is $10, and it is possible for organizations to register to the website as a user, allowing them to manage multiple record checks and billing information and history more efficiently. Unless the records are classified as confidential or sensible information by the appropriate authority, the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History system should return a complete criminal history report, useful when performing background checks. Access the State Police Central Repository’s website to learn more about the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History System.
The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ website features an Inmate Locator search engine, allowing some degree of background checking. The search options are quite open, including name, date of birth or age, committing county or a limited physical description. Although the search engine is friendly and accessible, the resulting reports are extremely limited, not giving away information even on the offence committed or a picture. The only information included on the report is the name, known aliases, some personal information and facility where the inmate is being held. Visit the website of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to learn more about their Inmate Locator system.
In compliance with Megan’s Law, the State of Pennsylvania’s State Police maintains a website for the sex offender registry. The website features a list of non compliant offenders, as well as a powerful and clear search engine, allowing access to a vast database. The returned results from the search engine are complete and accurate records of the sex offenders, including various pictures, personal information, address, offence committed, physical description, information on the vehicle or vehicles owned by the offender and known aliases. The section dedicated to the offence committed also links to a webpage listing and defining all the possible offences that can be listed in the sex offender registry. According to the laws of the State of Pennsylvania, the website can not provide information on whether the victim of the offence is underage or not. Visit the Pennsylvania’s sex offender registry’s website for more information.