Pennsylvania Code & Bulletin
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA

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The Pennsylvania Code website reflects the Pennsylvania Code changes effective through 51 Pa.B. 1768 (March 27, 2021).

234 Pa. Code Rule 513.1. Sealing of Arrest Warrant.

Rule 513.1. Sealing of Arrest Warrant.

 (A)  For purposes of this rule, ‘‘arrest warrant information’’ is defined as the criminal complaint in cases in which an arrest warrant is issued, the arrest warrant, any affidavit(s) of probable cause, and documents or information related to the case.

 (B)  At the request of the attorney for the Commonwealth in the form of a motion, the arrest warrant information may be sealed upon good cause shown at the time the complaint is filed.

 (C)  Submission to Judge or Justice of Request for Sealed Arrest Warrant

 When the attorney for the Commonwealth intends to request that the arrest warrant information be sealed, at the time the complaint is filed, the attorney for the Commonwealth shall present the arrest warrant information to a judge of the court of common pleas or an appellate court judge or justice. The arrest warrant affidavit(s) shall include the facts and circumstances that are alleged to establish good cause for the sealing of the arrest warrant information.

   (1)  When the judge or justice orders the arrest warrant information sealed, the order shall:

     (a)   certify that for good cause shown the arrest warrant information is sealed and state the date and time that the sealing of the arrest warrant information shall expire; and

     (b)   when requested by the attorney for the Commonwealth, specify that the arrest warrant information may be released by the attorney for the Commonwealth to the law enforcement agencies listed in the order.

   (2)  When a judge of the court of common pleas orders the arrest warrant information sealed, he or she shall accept the filing of the written complaint, which shall be marked as sealed, and shall issue the sealed arrest warrant. When a judge or justice of an appellate court orders the arrest warrant infor- mation sealed, he or she shall direct that the complaint be filed in the court of common pleas and the sealed arrest warrant shall be issued by a judge of the court of common pleas.

   (3)  When the judge or justice issues the sealed arrest warrant, the judge or justice also shall issue an order designating the proper issuing authority before whom the case shall proceed upon execution of the warrant.

   (4)  When the sealed arrest warrant is issued, the sealed arrest warrant information, the sealing order, and the order designating the proper issuing authority shall be filed with the clerk of courts in the judicial district in which the charges are being filed.

   (5)  Upon execution of the sealed arrest warrant, the affiant shall file a copy of the sealed arrest warrant information with the proper issuing authority along with copies of the order sealing the arrest warrant information and the order designating the proper issuing authority. Thereafter, the case will proceed before the proper issuing authority.

 (D)  The arrest warrant information shall be sealed for a period of not more than 60 days, unless the time period is extended as provided in paragraph (D)(1) or (D)(2).

   (1)  Upon motion of the attorney for the Commonwealth for good cause shown, the justice or judge who sealed the arrest warrant information may extend the period of time that the arrest warrant information will remain sealed. If the justice or judge is unavailable, another justice or judge shall be assigned to decide the motion.

   (2)  Upon motion for good cause shown, the justice or judge may grant an unlimited number of extensions of the time that the arrest warrant information shall remain sealed. Each extension shall be for a period of not more than 30 days.

   (3)  If the motion requesting any extension pursuant to paragraphs (D)(1) or (D)(2) is granted, the motion and any record of the hearing on the motion shall be sealed and transmitted with the extension order to the clerk of courts and a copy of the extension order shall be transmitted to the proper issuing authority.

 (E)  Upon motion of the attorney for the Commonwealth, the justice or judge shall order the arrest warrant information to be unsealed.

 (F)  Defendant’s Access to Sealed Arrest Warrant Information

   (1)  After the sealed arrest warrant is executed, a copy of the arrest warrant information shall be given to the defendant at the preliminary arraignment as provided in Rule 540, unless otherwise ordered as provided in paragraph (F)(2).

   (2)  Upon motion of the attorney for the Commonwealth, the justice or judge who issued the warrant, for good cause shown and after hearing, may delay giving the defendant a copy of the sealed arrest warrant information, in whole or in part, for periods of not more than 30 days. In no case shall the delay extend beyond the date of the preliminary hearing.

   (3)  If the justice or judge is unavailable, another justice or judge shall be assigned to decide the motion.

 (G)  Until the order sealing the arrest warrant information and any extensions thereof expires, the judge and clerk of courts shall not make the arrest warrant information available for public inspection and dissemination.

Comment

   This rule was adopted in 2013 to codify and further define the practice of temporarily sealing arrest warrants previously recognized in case law such as Commonwealth v. Fenstermaker, 515 Pa. 501, 530 A.2d 414 (1987). Unlike existing case law, which only addresses the sealing of arrest warrants after execution, the procedures in this rule apply to all arrest warrants.

   Magisterial district judges, arraignment court magistrates, and municipal court judges do not have authority to seal arrest warrant information; the request for the warrant to be sealed must be presented to a judge of the court of common pleas or a justice or judge of an appellate court.

   As provided in paragraph (C)(2), when the request to seal an arrest warrant is presented to a judge of the court of common pleas, the complaint must be filed with common pleas judge who issues the sealing order. In those rare cases in which an appellate court judge or justice orders the arrest warrant information sealed, the complaint shall be filed with an appropriate common pleas judge and the common pleas judge shall issue the sealed arrest warrant. This latter provision is necessary due to the limited capability of the appellate courts to accept initial filings and issue arrest warrants.

   A request to seal arrest warrant information made in accordance with this rule is not subject to the requirements of Rule 576.

   The rule establishes a standard of ‘‘good cause’’ for sealing the arrest warrant information. When determining whether good cause exists to seal the arrest warrant information, the justice or judge must consider whether the presumption of openness is rebutted by other interests that include, but are not limited to, whether revealing the information would allow or enable flight or resistance, the need to protect the safety of police officers executing the warrant, the necessity of preserving the integrity of ongoing criminal investigations, and the availability of reasonable alternative means to protect the interest threatened by disclosure.

   The rule assumes that access to a sealed arrest warrant will be severely limited. The rule assumes that this also will limit the availability of the arrest warrant information to a broad class of law enforcement agencies through the various law enforcement computer systems such as the Commonwealth Law Enforcement Assistance Network (CLEAN) and the National Crime Information Center system (NCIC). In many cases, the requester will desire that the information be placed into these systems in order to assist in the execution of the warrant. In these cases, the attorney for the Commonwealth may request that the sealing order provide that the sealed arrest warrant information be provided to law enforcement agencies generally and entry of the arrest warrant information into law enforcement computer systems be required.

   Under paragraph (D), an order sealing the arrest warrant information is limited in duration to not more than 60 days. Extension of this period may be granted only upon the showing of good cause for the extension. Each extension of the order is limited to no more than 30 days duration.

   The judge issuing the order to seal has the discretion to set the appropriate duration of the order and whether there are any conditions for unsealing the order. For example, a judge may order that the arrest warrant information must be unsealed 15 days from issuance or automatically upon execution of the warrant.

   Paragraph (E) provides that the attorney for the Commonwealth may move to unseal the arrest warrant information and the judge or justice must order the information unsealed. Ordinarily, this will occur in circumstances in which law enforcement wishes to publicize the existence of a previously sealed warrant in order to obtain public assistance in the apprehension of the defendant. The judge or justice may not deny the motion.

   Paragraph (F)(2) permits a judge or justice to order sealed arrest warrant information to be kept from the defendant even after the defendant is arrest. The judge or justice may order that either the whole or part of the arrest warrant information be kept from the defendant. This provision should only be used in extraordinary circumstances in which there is considerable risk to public safety or the safety of individual witnesses. In determining whether the information is to be kept from the defendant and what portion of the information is to be kept from the defendant, the judge or justice should be guided by the principle that the least restrictive means should be utilized that are consistent with the reason for the requested restriction. For example, if the grounds for requesting delay in providing this information to the defendant is that the affidavit of probable cause contains information regarding identity of an informant and must remain confidential until additional arrests in other ongoing investigations are made, the judge or justice may delay providing a copy of the affidavit of probable cause to the defendant while providing him or her with a copy of the complaint in order to provide the defendant with information regarding the charges.

   When a sealed copy of the arrest warrant information has been given to the defendant, nothing in this rule is intended to preclude the attorney for the Commonwealth from requesting that the justice or judge issue a protective order to prevent or restrict the defendant from disclosing the arrest warrant or the contents of the affidavit. See Rule 573(F).

   Until the order sealing the arrest warrant information terminates, the judge and the clerk of courts shall not make the arrest warrant information available for inspection and dissemination.

   Official Note

   New Rule 513.1 adopted December 23, 2013, effective March 1, 2014.

   Committee Explanatory Reports:

   Final Report explaining the December 23, 2013 adoption of new Rule 513.1 providing procedures for sealing of arrest warrant information published with the Court’s Order at 44 Pa.B. 243 (January 11, 2014).

Source

   The provisions of this Rule 513.1 adopted December 23, 2013, effective March 1, 2014, 44 Pa.B. 239.



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