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General Information About Pennsylvania Public Records and Laws
In Pennsylvania, public records are a requirement for local agencies to provide to the general public, when the public requests this information. The right to have this type of access comes from the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law, or the Sunshine Act in the state. It went into place in 1998 and is governed by the Pennsylvania Legislature. The law outlines what a public record is, how it is made available to the requestor and any other limitations or specifications on this information. In general, most information relate to the government is available.
Understanding Public Records
Pennsylvania public records are available in order to allow the government to be more transparent in its actions and law making. This law allows for individuals to see what is happening in the government easily. The law requires information to be made accessible during normal business hours, but it does not imply a specific timeline for when this information must be given to the individual requesting it.
A public law here is any information in any material form that is in the possession of, created by or otherwise used by a government agency or one of its associates. This includes all documentation in printed form, electronic form, videos, audio recordings and other data. The Office of Open Records provides management over this information. Some information may be off limits if it is specifically deemed as sensitive.
·         Information regarded as personally private, including contact information of an individual
·         Medical records of an individual
·         Student records of an individual
·         Government information that could endanger the government entity, its associates or those who are in the public
·         Information regarding any open or ongoing investigation
·         Documents related to any sealed court case, including juvenile records and sensitive documents
There may be other types of personal information or even business information that is off limits to the general public. The Office of Open Records provides more guidance on this.
Obtaining Public Records
Pennsylvania public records are available to the general public upon request. This information is governed and maintained by specific departments. Individuals may need to visit that location to obtain the information. In some cases, these departments have put information on the Internet for use. Third party providers may also offer access.
The following are some of the government agencies that manage the public records in the state. This is not an exhaustive list.
·         The Attorney General's Office maintains most information from businesses, corporations publically owned and for nonprofit organizations.
·         The PA Department of Health, Division of Vital Records manages most types of vital statistics, including birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, cemetery records and divorce decrees.
·         Criminal records are maintained by the State Police, Central Repository in Harrisburg.
·         Workers compensation records are available through the Bureau of Workers' Compensation Physical Records Section.
Other data may also be available. In most cases, a written request is necessary to obtain this information. A small, administrative fee may be in place to cover the cost of accessing this information.
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