What are Pennsylvania Public Traffic Records?
Pennsylvania public traffic records are documents that present a detailed outline of a person's driving or traffic history, starting from when they obtained a driver's license or ID card from the Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Frequently contained in these records are a motorist's identifiers (e.g., legal name, date of birth), crashes, license suspensions and revocations, and traffic violations.
At the same time, public traffic records also refer to documents preserved within the Pennsylvania judicial system that pertain to a motorist's prosecution or trial for a traffic offense. Contrary to PennDOT's traffic records, the records kept by the judiciary are particular to a traffic court case.
Are Traffic Records Public in Pennsylvania?
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania considers traffic records to be public information in many situations. For this reason, members of the public, not just residents, can request to inspect or copy such records from the courts. However, not all requests may be approved.
Ordinarily, the Right to Know Law (RTKL) governs the dissemination of traffic records in a court's custody. However, suppose a statute forbids public disclosure (say, a record is expunged or contains sensitive data). In that case, an individual's request may be denied by the court, or at best, some sections will be redacted from the record before release.
Furthermore, RTKL does not regulate the disclosure of traffic records maintained by PennDOT, but instead 67 Pa. Code § 95.2(c) and 75 Pa. C.S. § 6114. As a result, while such records are accessible, it is only to these parties:
- The subject
- Anyone with the subject's written consent
- Any person with a court order
- Federal, Commonwealth, or local governmental agencies, including law enforcement, for use in fulfilling legitimate governmental functions
- People who filed a statement acceptable to PennDOT, affirming the intended use of said record. For example, employment, insurance, or credit
What do Pennsylvania Traffic Records Contain?
Pennsylvania traffic records contain the following information about a licensed driver:
- Full name
- Current residential address
- Date of birth
- Driver's license number
- Class of license
- License status
- Traffic offenses
- Departmental actions (license suspensions, revocations, or disqualifications)
For records originating from traffic proceedings, an individual can usually find the case status, basic arrest information (e.g., the arresting agency, date of arrest), the charges, the defendant's plea, the fine payable for a traffic violation, and the court's sentence.
Does a Citation Go on Your Record in Pennsylvania?
Yes. Any citation received in Pennsylvania appears on a person's driver record, even if the violation itself is minor. Additionally, suppose a motorist is cited, summoned, arrested, or convicted for a felony or misdemeanor traffic offense. In that case, the offense can go on their criminal record as well.
Types of Traffic Citations in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law enforcement can cite road users for several traffic offenses. Among them are speeding, drag racing, broken lights, and no insurance. However, citations released in the Commonwealth are usually of two types: they can either be issued for minor ("summary") or major traffic offenses.
The implication of a minor traffic citation is that an offender will likely incur a non-prison penalty, a warning, or be asked to fix defective equipment. A minor traffic offense does not lead to imprisonment or stiff sanctions from the court unless the subsequent action of an offender (e.g., missing court, a repeat offense) leads to criminal charges. Examples of minor traffic violations/citations include driving without an inspection sticker, reckless driving, illegal parking, and running a red light.
On the other hand, when a major traffic citation is issued in Pennsylvania, it is usually for a serious traffic violation that merits felony or misdemeanor charges. For major traffic offenses, an offender always has a greater possibility of being sentenced to prison for a long time, in addition to other stringent penalties. Some major traffic offenses in Pennsylvania include driving under the influence (DUI), vehicular homicide, crossing state lines to evade law enforcement, leaving the scene of a crash, and driving while suspended or revoked.
Pennsylvania Traffic Citation Lookup
Pennsylvania operates a centralized judicial system. For this reason, people who want to look up traffic citations do not need to visit a specific court's website to obtain that information. They can simply access the PAePay system hosted on the judiciary's website.
Although PAePay is technically a payment portal, anyone who enters a citation number, name (person or organization), payment plan number, or docket number can access the following details:
- The total fine amount and balance
- Docket number
- Filing date and time
- County of filing, and
- The offender's date of birth
A docket sheet and court summary are also provided.
However, if the presiding court is the Philadelphia Municipal Court, the interested party can use the online payment system of the court's Traffic Division to look up the citation. This technique does not apply to parking tickets. For those tickets, it is best to contact the Philadelphia Parking Authority.
Besides using remote methods to view a Pennsylvania traffic citation, an individual can call or visit the appropriate Magisterial District court or the Traffic Division of the Philadelphia Municipal Court for the information. One needs only to have a citation or installment payment plan number.
How to Lookup my Pennsylvania Traffic Records
To look up a Pennsylvania traffic record, an individual can order their driver record online or by mail from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). Online orders can be completed using the Commonwealth's Driver Record System, provided the requester uses a compatible web browser, has an internet connection, and provides the following:
- A driver's license number
- Date of birth
- Last four digits of Social Security Number
Each record costs $12, which can be paid with a credit or debit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover). However, note that PennDOT does not release certified driver records online.
Any record holder who wants to look up a certified record must fill and submit Form DL-503 (Request for Driver Information). People who cannot use the online system to retrieve uncertified records can also request by mail. An uncertified record costs $12, and a certified record costs $38. Unlike online requests, payment for mail orders must be made with a check or money order payable to PennDOT.
It should be noted that any fee applied towards the retrieval of a driver record from PennDOT is non-refundable. In other words, no requester will be reimbursed even when no record is found.
Further inquiries about record requests can be directed to (717) 412-5300, PennDOT's Customer Care Center.
Pennsylvania traffic case records may also be available from third-party websites since they are considered public records. Unlike government sources or websites, third-party websites do not have geographical limitations. Hence, interested parties may access these websites from anywhere in the world. However, some third-party websites may require registration or subscription to access traffic record.
Pennsylvania Traffic Violations
A traffic violation in Pennsylvania is any type of infraction while operating a motor vehicle on public roads. These violations can range from minor offenses, like speeding or running a stop sign, to more serious crimes, like DUI or hit-and-run.
Some of the most common traffic violations in Pennsylvania include:
- Running a stop sign or red light
- Reckless driving
Pennsylvania License Plate Lookup
Pennsylvania license plate lookup is usually employed to identify a vehicle and its owner. This can be helpful for investigating accidents or crimes. Visit the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation website to look up license plates. Requestors will need the license plate number and the state where the car is registered. The website will provide the name and address of the car owner. Requestors may also search for license plates on third-party websites. These websites allow you to search for license plates by state or by VIN. Interested parties may also find information about a car's history.
How to View Traffic Case Records for Free in Pennsylvania
In compliance with the Pennsylvania Right To Know Law, courts in the Commonwealth provide the public with access to case records, including those produced from traffic court proceedings. They offer a case information system called the UJS web portal to allow the public to view and print case records (including docket sheets) for free.
To view traffic case information, individuals can navigate to the UJS web portal with a mobile device or computer. Typically, clicking the UJS portal's URL leads to a home page. To access the portal itself, a user must click "Case Information" next to "Home" on the site's menu.
Afterward, the requester can choose their preferred method to search for a traffic case record. Among the available parameters are a citation number, docket number, and participant's name. Regardless of the search criteria used, the following information can be obtained from the portal:
- The case's docket number
- The presiding court
- Case caption and status
- Filing date
- The defendant's name and date of birth
- The county where the traffic incident arose
- The court office
- The incident and complaint numbers
- The offense tracking number (OTN)
The researcher can also view and print the traffic docket sheet (which contains more information about the defendant and case) and the case summary document.
How Long do Traffic Offenses Remain on a Public Record in Pennsylvania
Traffic offenses committed in Pennsylvania can appear on an offender's public criminal and driving record. Regarding the driving records of Pennsylvania licensed motorists, the law does not specify a time limit within which the Department of Transportation is expected to keep or dispose of records. As such, PennDOT driver records usually contain all traffic offenses ever committed by someone with a Pennsylvania driver's license. To put it another way, traffic offenses remain on a Pennsylvania driver's record forever.
On the other hand, while traffic offenses that appear on a criminal record remain there permanently, an offense can be removed from a record or hidden from public review under these circumstances:
- The traffic offense qualifies for expungement (a legal procedure that clears a traffic arrest or conviction from a person's criminal record).
- The offense is eligible for automatic shielding under the Commonwealth's Clean Slate law.
- The offense is eligible to be sealed by petition under Act 5 limited access.
The judiciary's Clean Slate, Expungement, and Limited Access website provides more information on these record removal processes.
How to Remove Traffic Records from Public Websites in Pennsylvania
Most traffic records created in Pennsylvania are considered public information. As a result, it is not unusual for a traffic offender to find certain records on public websites or even be unaware that such information is available for general consumption.
Ordinarily, many public websites provide opt-out tools that people can use to remove their records from public review. However, this solution requires routine maintenance as a site can relist new information about a record owner (say, the individual committed a subsequent traffic offense).
As such, when attempting to remove a traffic record from a public website in Pennsylvania (including sites managed by state agencies), it may be best to obtain a legal order that compels a site to take down the record permanently. For example, an expungement or sealing order.
Do Motoring Offenses Affect Criminal Records in Pennsylvania?
Yes, motoring offenses (also referred to as traffic or driving offenses) can affect criminal records in Pennsylvania. However, when this happens, it is typically because an individual was arrested or convicted of a serious traffic offense in the Commonwealth. For example:
- Driving under the influence
- Hit and run
- Using a vehicle to commit a felony
- Manslaughter or negligent homicide resulting from a motor vehicle's operation