Conducting a background check on someone has become almost as commonplace as adding new friends on social networking sites. The media has made the term “background check” something of a catchphrase to throw into the mix when a sensational crime happens. Pennsylvania is one state that has responded to the impetus to make public criminal records more accessible. Even so, it can be puzzling to know how to go about doing a records search. Correcting errors on your own record is a foreign concept to most, but is also quite feasible given the correct guidance. Fortunately, there are some relatively simple answers to these questions.
Pennsylvania has unified their court system and made it accessible through a web portal. You can, for example, check the status of individual cases, or the hearings calendar of a particular courthouse. However, to conduct a criminal records search, you have to go through what is called PATCH (Pennsylvania Access To Criminal History). This is a website run by the Pennsylvania State Police for the express purpose of making records searches easier for everyone from law enforcement to individual users. Unfortunately, this process is a little more complicated than you may be lead to believe.
A PATCH search can be initiated online, or by printing out and mailing a form. A non-refundable fee of $10 is charged for each name you would like to search regardless of outcome. What’s 10 bucks? Wait, here comes the downside. You will be charged for misspellings, duplicate submissions and other user errors. You should also be aware, the Pennsylvania State Police response is based on requester-information and includes fingerprint supported data exclusively from the State Police Central Repository. It does not contain criminal records which might be contained in the databases of other local, state or federal criminal justice agencies. Plus, if there are results they will be sent by snail mail. Obtaining the correct records could potentially take weeks.
Fortunately, if you suspect there is incorrect information on your record, it apparently won’t cost you to challenge it. There are detailed instructions on the PATCH website, but to summarize…It simply requires printing out and sending in the same request form that would otherwise be required for a background check. The state responds with your record and a form to make changes which has to be returned within 30 days.
For those that see this as a means to obtain a cheap criminal search, prepare to be disappointed. PATCH only covers Pennsylvania. If you are only interested in what your subject’s record is inside Pennsylvania, or if you know your subject has never been outside the state, this might well suffice. However, given the rate at which many individuals, especially criminals, move around, a national search is usually your best bet.
A Pennsylvania criminal background check has become a necessary evil when hiring someone for any reason, especially as a babysitter. Pennsylvania has made it relatively cheap and easy to do a records search inside the state with PATCH, providing you know exact details. On top of that, it helps you to keep an eye on what appears on your own criminal record to ensure accuracy, so you can’t go wrong there.
For more comprehensive screening encompassing a few states or the entire nation, the dizzying array of possibilities is bewildering. Unfortunately, many of the online services are nothing more than a money sinkhole. Using inferior service is dangerous to you and those around you so don’t trust just any company that looks good and makes grandiose claims.
Categories: General Background Check Tips