New Pennsylvania Personal Information Policy
When you hire a lawyer to help you with whatever kind of situation you are facing, protecting your identity and personal information is probably one of the last things you think about. Civil and criminal cases, however, contain a large amount of personal information from dates of birth and addresses to credit card and bank account numbers. For example, a custody case may contain the name, address, and date of birth of a minor child. A divorce case involves almost every piece of financial information a couple has. A criminal case can contain the Social Security Numbers or contact information of victims.
In the past, some of this sensitive personal information was theoretically available to the public, but was protected by the idea of practical obscurity. Essentially, someone would have to go to a specific courthouse and know that a case already existed before being able to ask for and look at the physical record containing the personal information. Today, with technology rapidly changing all aspects of life, practical obscurity no longer exists. Some counties in Pennsylvania have their dockets online for anyone anywhere to browse. The personal information that was formerly hard to obtain is now easily available online.
The large amount of easily accessible information on the internet has led the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to issue new rules about personal information for people involved with the judicial system. Starting in January 2018, attorneys and anyone availing themselves of the judicial system will have to take specific precautions to protect personal information from the public. Counties across the Commonwealth will require anyone who files paperwork to redact specific personal information such as the names and dates of birth of minor children, Social Security Numbers, financial account information, driver’s license numbers.
After January, that information will only be available to the parties of the case, their respective attorneys, and the judge. A member of the public will still be able to access files but will see paperwork with personal information excluded. While the new rules will not apply to cover the personal information already available in current paperwork held with the court, all personal information included in court paperwork going forward will be protected under this new policy.
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