Pennsylvania Criminal Records
What is a Pennsylvania Criminal Record?
Criminal records in Pennsylvania are official documents that contain the details of the criminal activity of a single person. Colloquially known as rap sheet, these records are the official government depository of the arrest, indictment, pending and past dispositions, and conviction information for a person who has entered the legal system as a convicted or suspected criminal. These records are kept at every level of every jurisdiction - albeit with varying levels of effectiveness - from municipal, county, and state levels. This means they are gathered from all types of criminal courts from across the state, and the country.
What is Contained in a Criminal Record?
Pennsylvania criminal records contain:
- The entire name of the suspect, arrestee or convicted criminal
- Their birth date, last known height and weight, and ethnicity
- A mugshot, fingerprints, and other gathered physical identifiers
- All previous and current indictments
- Arrest records and outstanding warrants
- Conviction information
What are Pennsylvania Arrest Records?
Arrest records are part of the criminal record that provides information on a suspect's apprehension by law enforcement officers. These records contain details on how and when the suspect was arrested, why they were arrested, where they were detained, and often who arrested them. It is important to note that these records may not always serve as a criminal record for the simple fact that innocent people are, on occasion, arrested erroneously. In some cases, a suspect that goes to trial may not be convicted, meaning that their arrest did not result in a criminal record. When a person is arrested, the following information is typically collected.
- The name, birth date, gender, hair color, height, weight, and other physical features
- The date and place of the arrest
- The name of the arresting officer
- The address and name of the detention center or jail
- The name of the issuer of the arrest warrant
What is a Pennsylvania Arrest Warrant?
Pennsylvania arrest warrants are issued by court officials and provide law enforcement with the ability to make an arrest of a person. Normally, agents of law enforcement can make an arrest if they witness a crime or have a reasonable suspicion that someone has committed a crime, but outside of these circumstances, an arrest warrant is needed. These documents are drafted following a sworn affidavit of a policeman, sheriff, or district attorney. Then a judge or court magistrate will provide authorization for a search or seizure of private property. Arrest warrants are signed and issued by judges or court magistrate on behalf of local or state jurisdictions. Most warrants are only valid for a specified period of time unless otherwise indicated.
Arrest warrants in Pennsylvania contain:
- The details of an alleged criminal offense
- The personal information of the suspect named in the warrant
- The time and place where the arrest may take place
- An expiration date if one exists
- The date at which the warrant was issued, as well as the name of the issuer
- Bail and bond conditions if they exist
What are Misdemeanors in Pennsylvania?
Misdemeanors in Pennsylvania refers to relatively minor criminal offenses. The state organizes misdemeanors into three categories known as first, second, and third degree. First degree is the most serious type of misdemeanor, while third degree is the most minor. The more serious the misdemeanor, the more harsh the penalties.
- First degree misdemeanors have a maximum fine of $10,000 in Pennsylvania. The maximum jail time is 5 years. Common first degree misdemeanors include simple assault, terroristic threats, stalking, theft of more than $200 but less than $2,000, and multiple DUI offenses.
- Second degree misdemeanors have a maximum fine $5,000 in Pennsylvania. The maximum jail time is 2 years. Common second degree misdemeanors include bigamy, shoplifting, strangulation, and theft of at least $50 but less than $200.
- Third degree misdemeanors have a maximum fine $2,000 in Pennsylvania. The maximum jail time is 1 year. Common second degree misdemeanors include possession of marijuana, night prowling, and theft of up to $50.
What are Pennsylvania Felonies?
A felony in Pennsylvania is considered a serious offense. These crimes carry penalties that almost always result in jail time, expensive fines, and additional punishments, including community service and mandatory sessions or classes. In extremely rare cases, felonies can result in the death penalty. Some Pennsylvania felonies are classified as ungraded felonies which have penalties decided at the time of sentencing to reflect the seriousness or lack thereof of the crime.
Generally, there are three categories of felony in Pennsylvania. These are first degree, second degree, and third degree felonies. First degree are the most serious, while third degree are the least serious.
- First degree felonies in Pennsylvania are punishable by at least 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. Common first degree felonies include murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, rape, and theft of property worth $500,000 or more.
- Second degree felonies in Pennsylvania are punishable by between 5 and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. Common second degree felonies include sexual assault, involuntary manslaughter that includes a victim under the age of 12, burglary, aggavated assault, and theft of over $100,000 but under $500,000.
- Third degree felonies in Pennsylvania are punishable by between 3.5 and 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Common first degree felonies bribery, possession of child pornography, possession of illigal narcotics with intent to distribute, and theft of property worth more than $2,000 but less than $100,000.
People convicted of felonies are barred from certain rights, which often include the freedom to perform certain activities and processes. People with a felony on their record cannot:
- Run for public office
- Own or possess a firearm providing their felony was a violent one
- Vote while serving prison time
- Serve on a jury
- Obtain financial aid for further education
- Get government benefits
Pennsylvania Sex Offender Listings
Pennsylvania holds online sex offender registries of people who are convicted of crimes that are of a sexual nature. These lists were developed after Megan’s Law was introduced as nationwide legislation. The purpose of these lists is to aid local residents in being able to identify sex offenders, or be notified when a sex offender is nearby. The lists feature the names, addresses, and crimes of such offenders.
Sex offender registries in Pennsylvania offer electronic notifications to interested citizens. This system allows a user to recieve notification by email when a sex offender changes residence, employment, or school district to a designated radius of the user’s address. They also offer tools to track a specific sex offender.
Pennsylvania Megan’s Law
Megan's Law is the term for state laws that create and maintain a sex offender lists. These provides information on sex offenders to citizens of a given area. Megan's Law first entered legislation after the rape and murder of a 7-year-old resident of New Jersey. She was attacked by a sex offender who lived in the neighborhood and had already served time for a similar crime. After passing the first Megan's Law, the federal government instituted a requirement that all states establish sex offender registries and lists. This was instituted to provide the public with information about those registered.
In Pennsylvania, registration of sexual offenders is mandated for any of the following: rape, aggravated indecent assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, kidnapping (victim is a minor), incest (victim is a minor), unlawful contact or communication with minor, sexual exploitation of children, luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure.
What is a Serious Traffic Violation?
Serious traffic violations in the state of Pennsylvania refer to misdemeanor traffic violations that involve damages, injuries or death. These are usually reckless driving or DUI charges, but can also result from multiple minor traffic violations. These can result in increasingly harsher punishment that will often result in jail time, suspension of license, and other forfeiture of property and rights. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT) will increase the amount of points on a license, which results in higher insurance premiums, and will eventually result in a forfeiture of a driving license.
What are Conviction Records?
Conviction Records in Pennsylvania are official documents that are generated in the event of a criminal conviction. This includes when a person is found guilty, pleads guilty, or pleads nolo contendere in any civilian or military court. Conviction also occurs when a person is judged as a delinquent. These records indicate when a subject has been judged, what they were sentenced to, and often the details of their imprisonment, parole, or probation. They are often found online through the website of the court that performed the hearing or trial. These are technically classified as court records.
What are Jail and Inmate Records?
Pennsylvania Jail and Inmate records are documents that contain information on the convicted criminals that have punishments of jail time. They document the various internment facilities that house these inmates, as well as specific information on the inmates themselves. They are created and maintained by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and can be looked up and found online on their database. Information in these records include:
- The full name and any known aliases of the inmate
- Details on the convicted offense
- Personal data on the inmate including their birthdate, gender, height, weight, and more
- Documented identification information such as fingerprints and a mugshot
- The date of incarceration and the expected date of release
- The location and security level of the facility where they are housed
- Past convictions and sentences served
- Bail and bond conditions if any exist
Where to get Parole Information in Pennsylvania
Parole is a term to reference the supervised freedom usually offered to convicted criminals after serving a certain amount of a jail sentence. This is usually offered to criminals as part of a plea deal, or in exchange for good behavior while incarcerated. Parole is usually associated with felony crimes as felony crimes typically have jail time as a default punishment. The information on parole issuement is handled by the Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections, which also provides conditions of parole should it be granted to an inmate.
Probation is usually either supervised, unsupervised on intensive depending on the severity of the crime or the behavior of the inmate. Conditions may also change depending on these factors.
What are Probation Records?
Probation records in Pennsylvania are documents indicate what parameters and restrictions were placed on a person who was granted limited freedom in exchange for serving no jail time. Probation is usually associated with misdemeanor charges, but can on occasion be the result of a felony charge. Probation records detail the indictment, and include the offense that the criminal was convicted of. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is responsible for managing individuals on probation.
Probations sentences often differ depending on a multitude of factors involved in sentencing. Because of this, individual experience usually differs. Length and conditions of the probation depends largely on the criminal offense committed, as well as the conditions in which it was committed. Some probation sentences are strict and intensive in terms of supervision, but most often are minimally supervised outside of periodic visits to police stations, sheriffs offices, third party facilities, or others.
What are Juvenile Criminal Records?
Pennsylvania juvenile records refer to the documents created when a person under the age of 18 commits a crime. These records report arrests, sentences, probation limitations, and adjudications of these individuals. It is common knowledge that these records are considered confidential, but one aspect that is often misrepresented is that these records are automatically expunged or sealed on the juvenile turning 18. This action is almost always required to be requested on behalf of the juvenile, and is almost always granted to avoid tainting the person with a lifetime criminal record for mistakes committed in their youth. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections offers an FAQ on juvenile delinquency records and how to expunge them when applicable.
Pennsylvania History and Accuracy of Criminal Records
Technology has made record keeping much more accurate and easier to research, and criminal records are not an exception. Digitization of criminal records have allowed records to be kept safe long term, and available to curious parties through the internet as well as in person. Still, record keeping is largely variable between municipalities, as they rely on the policies and individuals present in that community. Because of this, records available through official government channels and through third party websites like Staterecords.org may vary.
How to Find Criminal Records in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania criminal records are organized into online record depositories. These reports may be accessed through courts, the arresting law enforcement agency buildings, or through online government databases. They are also available through third party organizations that perform background checks for the purposes of employment or residence.
The amount of criminal records information presented on StateRecords.org as well as the resources for retrieving information generally varies. This is because different sources often have non-standardized state level protocols, storage classifications, requirements, organization and digitization processes.