Start Your Records Search:

Virginia Public Records

The Freedom of Information Act gives all United States citizens access to public records, but each state has its own rule and regulations. The state of Virginia has millions of public records that the general public has access to. 

Gaining access to these files can be a difficult process if you don’t have the necessary information to streamline everything. You might assume that a quick visit to the Library of Virginia can provide all of the information you need, but that’s not quite how it works in the state. 

Whether you live in Richmond or Virginia Beach, this state guide can help you locate records as efficiently as possible. You’ll find information and resources to find criminal, inmate, court, and vital records in all counties in Virginia. 

What does the Virginia public records law say?

Unlike many states, the code of Virginia may pose a problem for those residents out of state requesting records. The state has ruled against outside residents who tried to access public records. 

The state also has a fairly dated approach to media. Currently, online media is not classified as media for processing purposes. 

There are public records officers that have been designated in the state and the state does have a quick response time. The state responds to requests within five days and can ask for a seven day extension. 

The does have an Ombudsman to streamline the public records request process. 

All told, if you are a resident of Virginia, you have access to the government agencies that possess all the public records within the state, including local governments. Currently, there is no formal appeals process, and the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council acts as the intermediary if there is an appeal. 

To learn more, visit Virginia.gov. 

How can a person access public records in Virginia?

Some records in Virginia may be available online while others require a more formal request. If a request is necessary, it can be mailed, emailed, or delivered by phone to the record-holding department. 

Every department is different, so expect some variation to the rules if you’re accessing records from multiple places. 

In general, a public records request should include: 

  • Your name and contact information, including an email, phone number, and mailing address
  • The name of the document you want access to with as much detail as possible
  • A specific time period that you’d like to receive the materials by
  • How to deliver the documents, whether by email or mail

Due to COVID-19, some public offices may have limited hours of operation. As a result, online requests are best, but if you want to go in person you should call ahead.

Virginia criminal records

In the state of Virginia, criminal records are most commonly utilized by employers looking to conduct background checks on prospective employees. To assist employees in finding a person’s criminal records, we’ve provided some information and resources below.

What’s on a criminal record?

A criminal record provides a detailed record of a person’s interactions with law enforcement. These records are pulled from various sources and include arrest records, convictions, and incarcerations within the state’s four prisons.

More specifically, a criminal record or a background check will provide the following information: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birthday, nationality, etc.
  • A mugshot and full set of fingerprints
  • A list of distinguishing features like tattoos and other physical attributes
  • The type of offense (misdemeanor or felony) and description of the crime

Where can a person find Virginia criminal records?

In Virginia, to obtain a full arrest and conviction record, a set of fingerprints must be submitted to the state police. Without fingerprints, you can access conviction data only. The fingerprints grant access to additional information, which includes arrest information. 

If a fingerprint card is sent in, the processing time is approximately 15-20 days from the time of request. Given this sluggish turnaround time, employers should consider applying for the criminal records early in the process. 

There are fees associated with these background checks as well. 

Virginia inmate records

Inmate records in Virginia consist of offenders that are held across the prisons, correctional inmate facilities, detention centers, and penal institutions throughout the state. Overseen by the Virginia Department of Corrections, they may also include information on sentencing, the class of the offense, the parish where a case was tried, and the facility location of the inmate. 

What’s on an inmate record?

The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Virginia the records usually contain a combination of personal information and specific details about a person’s incarceration situation. Public access to inmate records can provide the following information when accessed: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birthdate, and gender
  • A mug shot
  • Inmate location
  • Inmate registration number
  • Jail transfer information
  • Custody status

Where can a person find Virginia inmate records?

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) oversees all state prisons and probation and parole offices, dividing these facilities into three regions with regional offices managing them. 

To search for the records of inmates incarcerated in Virginia, use the Offender Locator tool found on the VADOC website. If there are no instructions, then contact information can be found via the jail’s warden or FOIA Officer. 

Virginia court records

Court records in Virginia offer a wealth of information that are accumulated via court proceedings. For requesters that are in search of specific court records, there are resources listed below. It’s important to note that when you are searching for court records, bear in mind that these can be some of the most difficult records to procure since they are typically held across several courts within the state of Virginia. 

What’s on a court record?

In the majority of cases, court records are quite large and come with several varying documents. Most people find these documents the most helpful: 

  • Court minutes
  • Case files
  • Dockets
  • Orders of the court
  • Judgment documentation
  • Jury records and files
  • Witness documentation

Where can a person find Virginia court records?

If you would like to request records from the court system within the state of Virginia, visit the courthouse in the place where the case took place to request directly from the clerk of the court. Typically, this involves a written request form, and you can check the Virginia judiciary’s website to get the locations, phone numbers, and websites for the state’s courts. In some cases, you may be asked to provide as much information as you know, like brief case information or a case number. 

As a quick reference, the state’s highest court authority is the supreme court, followed by the court of appeals. Lower courts include superior courts and trial courts. Circuit courts, general district courts, and civil courts, where petitioners are looking for more than $250,000. Each court has a clerk. The circuit court, for example, has a clerk of circuit court. The state law suggests reaching out to this contact to obtain court records in the commonwealth of Virginia. 

Virginia vital records

As in most states, Virginia has an office that keeps track of its vital records that include birth records, marriage records, and death records. 

What information is needed to request a vital record?

The information listed on an inmate record varies, but in Virginia the records usually contain a combination of personal information and specific details about a person’s incarceration situation. Public access to inmate records can provide the following information when accessed: 

  • Personal information like a person’s name, birthdate, and gender
  • A mug shot
  • Inmate location
  • Inmate registration number
  • Jail transfer information
  • Custody status

Where can a person find Virginia vital records?

Through the Thomas Jefferson health District health department in Virginia, requesters can procure certified copies of birth, marriage, and divorce certificates. These can be accessed by immediate family members with valid identification. All vital records can also be obtained from the Virginia Department of Health, Division of Vital Records, with copies of marriage licenses obtainable from the county Clerk’s Office.

Frequently asked questions about Virginia records

To further assist Virginia residents in their search for public records within the state, here’s a list of commonly asked questions: 

Can a request be submitted by non-residents of the state?

No. Only state residents may request records. 

Is there a records custodian in Virginia?

Yes, each agency is required by law to have a designated FOIA officer.

What exemptions exist?

Legislative records are exempted, as well as the records of petit juries and grand juries. There are also exemptions related to public safety, administrative investigations, educational records, health and social services, and trade secrets.

How long does that state have to respond?

Within 5 days from date of request.

Is there an appeals process in place?

There is no administrative appeal option.

What fees are associated with requesting public records?

A state agency may charge reasonable fees that cannot exceed the actual cost of access, search, and duplication.

  • Updated November 12, 2020
  • States

Start Your Records Search:

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments

Leave a Reply: