Pennsylvania Traffic Court Records
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What are Pennsylvania Traffic Court Records?
Pennsylvania traffic court records are documents pertaining to citations and traffic court proceedings within the jurisdiction of the state. These records typically include details of violations, and consequent tickets, as well as actions that were taken during a court case, motions filed and judgments delivered following a traffic case hearing.
While the Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts of Pennsylvania are the state's principal appellate courts, traffic-related cases are the jurisdiction of the state's Magisterial District Courts. As such, the generation and dissemination of traffic court records is the responsibility of the court administrator of the Magisterial District Court in most judicial districts of Pennsylvania. Interested members of the public may access traffic court records by contacting the Magisterial District Judges of the various district courts or by using the online tools available on the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania web portal.
What is Included in a Traffic Court Record?
Traffic court records are specialized documents detailing the judicial processes in Pennsylvania’s traffic courts. Thus, while traffic records generally include all relevant driving information of an individual and is managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, traffic court records contain only information relating to a specific traffic violation and the consequent litigation. Essentially, traffic court records provide documentation of a violation, court proceedings, evidence and sworn statements.
Traffic Violations in Pennsylvania
Traffic courts in Pennsylvania are dedicated exclusively to hearing traffic-related cases. Traffic violations include all crimes resulting from the violation of traffic laws by operators of various vehicles and road users. These violations include a wide range of acts that are primarily distinguished by the nature and severity of the damage caused. Customarily, Pennsylvania traffic violations may be either moving or non-moving offenses. However, some road traffic offenses may be designated as warning offenses or criminal/non-criminal violations. These designations depend primarily on the severity of the damage caused and the jurisdiction where the offense occurred.
While this is not a widely recognised category, law enforcement officers often opt to issue a warning to offenders rather than a penalty. This is usually the case if the said violation has not resulted in any significant damage or loss of life and/or property. In some jurisdictions, road traffic officials are not allowed to exercise their discretion. Where this is the case, all traffic violations must be adequately penalized.
Moving and Non-moving Violations
All traffic violations are either moving or non-moving offenses.
Within the provisions of Pennsylvania state, offenses involving immobile vehicles are considered non-moving violations, they are the least severe type of traffic offense, and they attract mild penalties compared to moving violations. Non-moving violations may include offenses relating to vehicle paperwork, parking violations and in-complete or non-functional car components (e.g. lack of a spare tire or broken lights).
On the other hand, moving violations are considered infractions and may include a wide range of offenses of vehicle operators while in transit. They include all speed-related violations, DUI and DWI’s as well as lack of driving license or operational insurance. Other moving violations include reckless driving and disobeying traffic laws and speed limits.
Criminal and Non-criminal Violations
Most traffic violations are considered criminal offenses unless labeled as civil violations by the state. Criminal traffic violations often result in a loss of or damage to life and property and may be subcategorized into misdemeanor or felony violations depending on the severity of the offense. Misdemeanors include DUIs and criminal speeding while felony traffic violations include aggravated DUI/DWI and vehicular homicide.
On the other hand, non-criminal violations do not result in any immediate damages to life and property. They primarily include non-moving violations also considered infractions which include tail-gating, ignoring traffic signs and various mechanical issues such as non-functional tail-lights or turn-signals.
Getting a Traffic Ticket in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania traffic tickets or citations are legal notices issued by law enforcement officials subsequent to a traffic violation. They may be hand-written or computer-generated and often contain relevant information regarding the offender and their vehicle as well as details of the offender and frequency of the offense committed. Depending on the jurisdiction, tickets may also provide room for the plea of the offender which may be guilty or not guilty.
Traffic tickets may serve as notice of a penalty ascribed to a driver. These penalties may include points added to a driving record or a fine following the driver's disregard for road traffic laws. In cases where the traffic ticket serves as a summons, the recipient will be required to appear at the traffic court. However, where the alleged offender chooses to contest a penalty (such as the driving points or fine), they may request a contested hearing in the traffic court of the jurisdiction.
Responding to a Traffic Ticket/Citation
Recipients of a Pennsylvania traffic ticket/citation are typically required to respond within 10 days of the issuance or service of the document. The alleged offender may choose to pay any indicated fines, plead guilty/not guilty to the charges or contest the ticket in court (where the ticket is also a court summon).
How do I Pay a Traffic Ticket in Pennsylvania?
Choosing to pay a traffic ticket is an inadvertent admission of guilt which may attract additional penalties. However, it is a much easier alternative to pleading not guilty/contesting a ticket. The implication of paying a traffic ticket may include additional points on the driving record of the offender as well as a possible spike in auto insurance estimates given the offenders driving history.
Tickets may be paid in person, via mail or online. In some cases, traffic courts may permit installment payment(where necessary). Online payments may be made using the PAePay tool available on the Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania web portal. However, not all Pennsylvania state county courts currently accept electronic payment.
For other payment methods, the offender may refer to their citation for details of the presiding court where payments should be made to. Queries relating to in-person and mail-in payments should be made directly to the courthouse.
How do I Request a Contested Hearing?
If a ticket is issued unfairly, the alleged offender may request a contested hearing by pleading not guilty to the citation. The presiding traffic court (indicated on the citation) must be notified of the offender's plea no more than 10 days after its issuance. Notifications may be made via mail, online or by phone.
While most traffic court proceedings are unique to each court, offenders are generally required to post collateral subsequent to making their plea. The collateral must be the equivalent cost of the ticket as well as any additional charges. If acquitted, this amount will be refunded to the alleged offender and all charges will be dropped. However, if the court reaches a guilty verdict, the judge may include (along with any already stated fines), license suspension, driving record points, additional fines or jail time. To this end, offenders are advised to only contest a ticket when there is sufficient legal proof to exonerate them or if paying the ticket is more detrimental than beneficial. Additional information regarding the process may be found on the UJSP webportal.
Where to Find Pennsylvania Traffic Court Records
Pennsylvania traffic court records are generally managed by the administrator of the presiding court. However, the UJS of the state provides a public access online option to access traffic court case information of all courts.
As traffic cases are the responsibility of the various judicial districts of the state, requests for traffic court records may be made to the appropriate magisterial district court in person or via mail. Detailed requests for these records may be made by completing the magisterial district court record request form. Most record requests require that the requestor provide adequate identification and make any required payment to cover search/copy expenses.
Alternatively, requestors may opt to access traffic court records online using the Public Web Docket Tool of the Magisterial District Courts. To use the tool, the requesting party will be required to furnish the search engine with information regarding the case such as the docket number of the file, the county and court office where the case was filed/heard.
Publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third party sites are not government sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.
How Do I Find my Traffic Citation History?
All information regarding the lifetime history of traffic tickets and citations of an individual is usually included in their driving record. Interested members of the public may view their traffic citation history by obtaining their full driving record from the state DMV (PennDOT) or by using any of the online case citation search tools managed independently by aggregation sites. However, the most recommended means of obtaining a traffic citation history is for the requestor to contact the presiding traffic court of the jurisdiction where they are resident.
How Do I Look Up My Pennsylvania Driving Record?
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is tasked with maintaining the driving records of all persons who hold a Pennsylvania driver's license. The information contained in these records is pooled from a variety of public sources including law enforcement agencies and courthouses.
PennDOT is charged with processing requests for the state driving records. Members of the public may obtain various kinds of driving records depending on its intended use. Requestors may request their basic driving record (which excludes accidents or violations), accident history, traffic violation information or full driving history (which includes ticket/citation history).
Pennsylvania driving record requests may be made online, in person, or via mail. Online queries require the requestor to make their order using the Driver Record Printing Page of PennDOT. To order a record, the requesting party must provide the subject's date of birth, Pennsylvania driver's license number and the last 4 digits of their social security number. All requests are validated by the payment of the required fee, without which the order will not be processed.
In-person and mail driving record requests may be made by completing the Request for Driver Information. The completed form must then be enclosed along with the indicated fees must then be delivered to the local PennDOT office.
How to Recover Lost Traffic Tickets in Pennsylvania
Interested members of the public may find misplaced traffic tickets and citations by using the UJSP’s PAePAY or by contacting the presiding traffic court/magisterial district court of the required jurisdiction.
To access lost traffic tickets using the PAePAY tool, the requesting party will be required to provide a traffic citation number, court docket number or the driver's first and last names. Alternatively, lost tickets may be obtained by contacting the Magisterial District Court of the court where the ticket was issued. This will also require providing information in order to facilitate ticket search. Thus, offenders are advised to memorize the citation number, and place of the ticket as well as the name of the issuing officer and the violation for which they were charged.
Pennsylvania’s Driving Record Point System
The state of Pennsylvania operates the federally implemented driving point system which is used to determine penalties for various traffic violations. According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation, persons with 6 points or more on their driving record run the risk of losing their driver's license.
Upon getting 6 or more points for the first time, the offender will be required to take an exam within 30 days or face indefinite license suspension. People who pass the exam will have 2 points deducted from their record.
Second and third-time offenders will be required to make a mandatory PennDOT appearance or face immediate suspension. Upon making an appearance, the offender will likely be required to take and pass a behind-the-wheel exam (in addition to having their license suspended for a minimum of 15 days). People who pass the exam will also have 2 points deducted from their record. Offenders with 11 points and above will receive license suspensions of at least 5 days per 1 point.