How to Research and Read a Criminal Record in PA Using the UJS Portal

How to Research and Read a Criminal Record in PA Using the UJS Portal

If you’ve ever asked, “How can I look up my criminal record?” you should know that the UJS (Unified Judicial System) portal provides essential information about past convictions and criminal records. Knowing how to access and utilize it will be crucial to several legal processes. Things like pardons and expungements need an understanding of the current status of the case. Knowing how to navigate the portal will also make it easy to find information on the crime you want to discover.

Why Look Up Your Record?

Most processes in the U.S. need a criminal history background check – criminal information available via public access. Most universities, landlords, and employers will have measures to check this. They use third-party operators who search online records for any criminal records, and having advanced knowledge of what they might find could help you manage your next move.

The issue with this is that one out of three Americans has a criminal record. Whether these are minor infractions or not, they can prevent you from accessing numerous opportunities. These include:

  • Employment
  • Jury status
  • Immigration
  • Licenses
  • Housing
  • Education

Not to mention that there is a stigma surrounding people who have criminal records. Most of these third parties don’t care about the details of these records – once they see something, they may regard you as unfit.

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Key Concepts 

The Unified Judicial System uses a number of terms and systems throughout that platform to describe certain common ideas and concepts. The following will be important in understanding and reading criminal history record information.


In Pennsylvania, criminal grades refer to the maximum amount possible for fines and jail time. Even if you got probation and a $100 fine, the grading could be high. The higher the grade, the maximum jail time and fines increase. You’ll find the gradings of offenses on the UJS portal records.  You will find the list of maximum fines and jail time in the PowerPoint presentation.

Summary Tickets

Summary tickets are similar to traffic or speeding tickets as they are usually minor offenses. They usually don’t have any jail time behind them, only fines and fees. Some examples include retail theft and disorderly conduct 

The Two Courts

All criminal charges start at the district judge level. The judge will handle all preliminary hearings and then pass misdemeanor and felony cases on to another court (Court of Common Pleas) for a final disposition. As long as the MDJ deems the charges are appropriate and the evidence sufficient, the case can move forward. There are two places where criminal cases are finalized:

  1. Magisterial District Court (MDJ): The Magisterial District Judge can accept pleas of guilt if the case is an M3 or a summary. The magisterial district courts are the lower courts, passing more serious cases to the Court of Common Pleas.
  2. Court of Common Pleas (CP): The common pleas court handles all misdemeanor and felony cases graded above an M3.

Both of these courts have their abbreviation at the UJS portal.

How To Use the UJS Portal To View Your Criminal Record

Step One: Navigate to the Portal

The UJS Of PA Web Portal home page, a self-service resource for PA residents to look up criminal records that are publicly available | Record Eraser

To begin research in the UJS, open your internet browser and go to the website If the UJS portal is down or inaccessible, check for any announced maintenance periods on related social media or court notification systems. Check the UJS social media, or a sitewide banner for updates on portal availability.

Step Two: Start a Case Search

Look for the ‘Case Information’ option in the main navigation. Upon hovering or tapping (for mobile users), select ‘Case Search’ from the dropdown menu. This action directs you to the search parameter selection screen.

A close of up the UJS of PA Web Portal Navigation Menu that shows the menu option 'Case Information' selected, which displays the dropdown menu item 'Case Search' | Record EraserUpon reaching the ‘Case Search’ screen, you’ll be prompted to choose a search parameter. Select ‘Participant Name’ for the most straightforward approach, especially if you do not have the docket number.

The screen a user is shown after selecting 'Case Search' dropdown menu item on the UJS of PA Web Portal, prompting the user to select a search parameter | Record Eraser


Next, you’ll be shown the form with which you will be entering the details that will help UJS narrow down search results.

The Case Search form found on UJS of PA Web Portal that allows PA residents to look up publicly available criminal records by first and last name, and docket type, among other parameters | Record Eraser


Start with as much information as you have. If unsure about the record type, start with a broad search.

Use the minimum search criteria required—just the first and last name, and county if known. This approach helps narrow down the results effectively: Enter in the following

● Name (first name and last name)

● Type of record (criminal, traffic)

What if you don’t know the exact name or type of record? Utilize Date of Birth, and County filters. Doing so will go a long way to narrow down search results significantly, especially for common names. Utilizing the ‘County’ filter can drastically reduce the number of irrelevant results if you know where the event occurred.

Finally, make sure you enter the ‘Date Filed’ values to capture the timeframe in which you’d like to search.

For a higher degree of accuracy, feel free to fill in additional details if you know them.

Step Three: Run the Search

Once you are satisfied with the case details entered in the form, click ‘Search’. The search result page will reveal whether or not the record is MDJ or CP. Understanding the significance of MDJ (Magisterial District Judge) vs. CP (Court of Common Pleas) records is crucial. MDJ records often pertain to preliminary hearings or lesser charges, while CP records involve more serious allegations. You can also see relevant information about the case, including the filing date, names, and case status.

Too many results? Refine your search by adding more specific information, such as the ‘County’ or ‘Date Filed’ range. Narrowing down the timeframe or specifying the type of record (criminal or traffic) can also help.

Step Four: Read the Results

Your search may reveal multiple names because it’s not uncommon to find the same name in cases across history. Including the date of birth can help narrow the search.

You may also notice that some people have multiple records listed. For example, you can see two MDJ and two common pleas records. If both cases have the same date, they are likely the same case filed in both courts. You can use the OTN to unite the two court levels and their records.

On the right side, you’ll see a courthouse icon that can show a summary of the case. You’ll see which county is now handling it and any recent actions in the case. The information will be enough for you to analyze and make a conclusion. You may see a conviction that leads you to conclude that you’ll need to pursue a pardon first.

You’ll also want to check the bottom part of the docket sheet because it contains every fine and cost related to the crime. It will show the payment status, whether in full or not. You’ll know if there need to be additional payments made to process the record clearing.

In order to differentiate from people with the same name, look for unique identifiers such as the Date of Birth, case numbers, or the OTN (Offender Tracking Number). These can help distinguish between individuals.

The Importance Of Learning to Read A Criminal Record

By learning how to read a criminal record, you’ll know the case’s status before you act. You’ll know whether to pursue a pardon or expungement once you get the information. You’ll also understand the case’s current situation and any outstanding payments. Knowing what to look for will make searching the USJ platform easier for both professionals and those involved in the case.

Are you ready to have your PA criminal record erased? Download our full pardon project training presentation and contact us today! With our experience and services, we’ve helped thousands of people just like you get their criminal records cleared.

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The Importance of Pardons and Expungement For Criminal Records in Pennsylvania

The misconception people have is they believe that the records will erase themselves over time. Many criminal records aren’t gone, but they’re hard to find because of system upgrades. The justice system also assumes that searchers understand jargon. You must know terms like offense grades, convictions, statutory sections, tracking numbers and charges.

Expungement deals with any cases that have non-convictions. If the crime was charged and got a dismissal or withdrawal, it doesn’t mean the record isn’t there. The allegation remains even if the conviction does not. Often, there is a need to erase the record by expunging.

For pardons, you’ll need consent from the governor. These mostly have to do with crimes that have a conviction.

There are some exceptions. Crimes committed by individuals under 18 may be subject to expungement after review. Those above 70 may also seek the same option if they’ve been free from any supervision for at least a decade.

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