What is a background check?
A background check is an investigation into an individual’s criminal record, employment history, driving record, education, finances, or other aspects of their personal history.
Background checks are often performed by an organization or company in order to screen a subject before a significant financial or legal agreement. However, individuals regularly perform background checks on themselves to make sure that the public information on them matches their personal records.
For more general information on background checks, consult our Background Checks FAQS page.
How do I run a criminal background check in Pennsylvania?
The Pennsylvania State Police provides an online, fee-based criminal records search known as the Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History (PATCH).
PATCH can be used by the general public to perform a name-based criminal history search of any person. The PSP claims that 85% of searches result in instant “No Record” responses.
Here’s some important information about PATCH:
- Each online request costs $22 which can be paid with a major debit or credit card.
- There is no need to create an account to use PATCH.
- Organizations that perform repeated searches using PATCH can register to use the service free-of-charge by calling the PATCH help desk at 888-783-7972.
- In response to a search, users will receive one of three messages: Pending, No Record, or Request Under Review.
What can I do if my Pennsylvania criminal history record has incomplete or inaccurate information?
If your Pennsylvania arrest record or other criminal history document contains inaccurate or incomplete information, there is a process for challenging the record and having it corrected.
1. Mail a request for a hardcopy Form SP4-170, Individual Access and Review to the following address:
Bureau of Records and Identification
1800 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, PA 17110
2. You will receive a challenge form and a complete copy of your criminal record. Complete the form and mail it back to the BRI within 30 days of receiving it.
3. Wait for an official response from the BRI. If the mistake involves false identification on an arrest record, fingerprints must be submitted to correct the mistake.
How do I search for Pennsylvania court records online?
Individuals can search for Pennsylvania court records free-of-charge by using the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania web portal.
The following types of court records are available through the UJS web portal:
- Criminal Common Pleas case information
- Appellate court case information
- civil case records
- traffic case records
- landlord/tenant case records
If you can’t find the court record you are looking for, you should make a direct request to the magisterial district court office where the case originated. Click here for the contact information of all Pennsylvania courts.
Where can I find Pennsylvania driving records online?
You can obtain a copy of your own Pennsylvania driving record online through a Pa.gov service. However, the driving record of another person is not available through this method. The record will be delivered in PDF format, and you will be able to print a copy.
In order to receive and print your driving record online, you will need the following:
- Adobe Reader Version 9 or higher
- A working printer
Click here to order your driving record.
How do I look up Pennsylvania vital records such as birth certificates and marriage licenses?
Vital records are records of important life events such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces that are kept by government agencies and accessible upon request.
Vital records are not public records that can be viewed by anyone, but the subject(s) of the record and authorized family members can view them in-person or order copies through a number of means. Additionally, one or more vital records may be required to complete a background check.
The Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records enlists the services of the third-party vendor Vital Chek to enable individuals to order copies of vital records online. The government-endorsed service offers vital records from 50 U.S. states and territories.
Available vital records include:
- birth certificates
- death certificates
Click here to place an order with Vital Chek. For more information, contact the Pennsylvania Division of Vital Records at 724-656-3100.
How do I search for a person’s sex offender status in Pennsylvania?
Those convicted of sex-related crimes or certain crimes against children in Pennsylvania are required by law to register as sex offenders. Additionally, offenders in the registry are required to notify law enforcement as soon as possible in the case of a physical address change or email address change, or they will be labeled “non-compliant”.
The Pennsylvania State Police makes the Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registry available online to the general public in the interest of public safety. Users may search by name, city, area, or for non-compliant offenders. However, certain low-risk offenders may not be viewable in the online database.
Click here to perform a search of the Pennsylvania Sex Offender Registry. It’s important to stay informed about potential threats in your neighborhood in order to take the necessary precautions.
How do I perform a credit history background check in Pennsylvania?
Performing a credit check in Pennsylvania follows the same process as in other states. A federal law known as the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) grants every American one free annual credit report each from the three main U.S. credit bureaus:
In order to obtain your free credit report from one of these three bureaus, you must provide the following information:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Social security number