Two types of records are open to the public: (1) records of businesses and government agencies, and (2) records for individuals. The government acknowledges that citizens have a right to know how state agencies conduct business, and it acknowledges that past individual activity and protective information may be of public interest. Ciccarelli Law Offices offers free consultations if you believe your privacy has been compromised through your public record.
Accessing State Agency Records
The state of Pennsylvania enacted the “Right to Know” Act, effective January 1, 2009. The law dictates that public offices must make certain records available to the public if they meet specific criteria. The Freedom of Information Act compels the government to disclose public records at no cost, but these requests can take time to locate and process.
Similarly, the “Sunshine” Act requires state agencies to leave meetings involving “agency business” open to the public. The agency must inform the public about meeting times, locations and record minutes for all meetings. Some meetings are exempt from the Sunshine Act, such as negotiation meetings with labor unions, property transfer negotiations, litigation, and decisions regarding agency personnel.
What Are Public Records?
Some of your personal information is likely part of some kind of public record. There are different types of records accessible through different channels. If you’re interested in seeing your personal information that is open to the public, you can contact various agencies for different data.
For example, contacting your local police department will allow you to see your record of past interactions with the police department. Contacting your local courthouse will allow you to see if your name appears on any court dockets. Your county clerk’s office will likely have ownership records for real estate in your area.
The state creates a profile of your personal information, criminal history, and past interactions with various government agencies to craft a virtual paper trail. You can access your personal public record from the government through several state agencies. A personal public record will typically include some or all of the following information
Age and date of birth
Known family members
Sex offender status
Political party affiliation
Businesses owned, including websites
The government must have a very compelling reason to keep certain records hidden from public view. In most cases, records typically subject to submission for public view are exempt from disclosure if their release could compromise state or national security, or if their release could leave government installations vulnerable to attack or external interference.
How Do My Personal Public Records Affect Me?
Personal public records are different from background checks and credit reports. For instance, when you want to sign a lease for an apartment, the proprietor will likely want to see a financial record of steady income to prove you can afford the rent. Your credit report is your personal financial history and helps creditors determine your creditworthiness.
These types of records are will change over time, however, personal public records are generally permanent and always open to the public.
If you have a criminal history, expungement may be an option if you meet specific criteria. For example, if you have a juvenile criminal record, Pennsylvania will seal it at age 18 if you have no felony or misdemeanor convictions. Past arrests can prevent you from obtaining some licenses, purchasing firearms, or acquiring a home.
If you committed any crimes up to or including second-degree misdemeanors prior to reaching the age of 25, you qualify for expungement after seven years of no arrests or convictions. This requirement may sometimes apply to third-degree misdemeanors as well. Crimes that will not qualify for expungement include:
1.) Sex offenses
2.) Cruelty to animals
3.) Impersonating a public official
4.) Use of a firearm
5.) Victim or witness retaliation
Pennsylvania also allows record expungement for convictions upon reaching the age of 70 if you have not committed any crimes for more than ten years since your release. The only types of information not available in public records include privileged information or information that meets specific exemption requirements.
Ciccarelli Law Offices can help answer any other questions you may have about your personal public records. Schedule a free consultation today.