smartphone

Database of Pa. Court Records Now Available via Mobile App

From Betty Ward, Law Librarian

Monday, October 31, 2011

A new mobile app allows smartphone users to search for crimes people have committed in Pennsylvania, from illegal parking to murder.

Docket In Your Pocket, which is available for iPhones, iPads and Android devices and sells for $2.99 on all platforms, allows users to search by name through a database of 32.5 million court records dating to 2000.

The records, drawn from the state judiciary's database of court dockets, include information about minor offenses, such as traffic tickets and noise violations, in addition to robberies, drug charges, assaults, rapes and murders. The app's inventor, Matt Haindfield, 40, said the app may be useful to singles for vetting dates and to parents for checking up on baby sitters.

The app also includes data about civil disputes of $12,000 or less, allowing users to search to see if, for example, a company was sued for violating a contract, Mr. Haindfield said. He is working county by county to make civil disputes of more than $12,000 available.

Mr. Haindfield, a civil litigation attorney in Iowa, said he thought of the app when he suspected a witness in a case to be lying about his criminal background. During a break in the witness's deposition, Mr. Haindfield attempted to search for the witness's criminal records on his iPhone.

"When operating in the mobile environment, it was very difficult, almost impossible, to get the information I needed," he said. Unable to find an existing app, he originally devised Docket in Your Pocket to be a tool for lawyers before realizing its potential general applications.

He started with Pennsylvania because the state's criminal data was already easily available and because the state has a large population of smartphone users, Mr. Haindfield said. He plans to launch similar apps in each state over the next few months, starting with other states with large populations of smartphone users and accessible court data, such as California, he said.

After that, he plans to release a "master app" that will search criminal records in all states, and possibly create similar software for other platforms in the future, such as a browser-based application, he said.

"We do have some ambitious development goals," he said.

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