The Virginia State Records website has a mission to provide every person with the tools to seek out and obtain Virginia public records. This right is in accordance with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, which specifies that all government information and records are presumed public.
The main purpose of the Virginia State Records website is to give the general public easy and effective access to these records. These records can be obtained without submitting personal information, unless a court order or law requires a record to be classified as confidential.
Virginia State Records contains criminal records, court records, vital records, and over 75 million transparent public records.
Virginia records are mostly open to the public. Under the Virginia Freedom of Information Law, members of the Commonwealth of Virginia can view and copy all public records in the custody of a government agency. Virginia's FOIA also determines the process of obtaining these records, whether through public data search services or other means and the type of documents accessible to the public.
The following are examples of public documents in Virginia:
The Virginia Freedom of Information Law defines public records as all information or data that documents a public agency's activity or transaction. In this context, "public agency" refers to cities, municipalities, commissions, and departments. Thus, the state FOIA empowers state residents to request and obtain public records from designated record custodians. A public record act request may also be made through third-party public data search service providers. While some of these service providers offer limited free public data search services, others may require their users to pay a fee or subscription to use their services.
Note: Not all public records are open to the public. State law prohibits the disclosure of certain documents for reasons like confidentiality and privacy.
Commonwealth citizens can find public records by contacting the public agency responsible for issuing the documents under the FOIA. Although the method of obtaining Virginia public records differs for each custodian agency, record seekers may receive public documents via these steps:
Not all record custodians provide request forms. Hence, requesters may write a letter requesting public documents at a custodian agency. Note that a written request must detail the listed data:
Public city records may also be accessible from third-party websites. These non-government platforms come with intuitive tools that allow for expansive searches. Record seekers may either opt to use these tools to search for a specific record or multiple records. However, users will need to provide enough information to assist with the search such as:
Third-party sites are not sponsored by government agencies. Because of this, record availability and results may vary.
Public records can also be accessed from third-party websites. These third-party public records aggregate websites offer search services that are non-geographically limited, making the search result expansive and typically straightforward. However, users will need to provide enough information to assist with the search, such as:
Third-party public records search websites are not government-sponsored services. Therefore, the availability and accuracy of results can vary.
Obtaining a free public record in Virginia is dependent on the agency in charge of the document and type of record. Thus, interested persons may utilize the following options to conduct free public records searches:
In-person Inspection of Virginia Records
Some custodian agencies may allow inspection of public records in their custody. For example, interested Virginia citizens can inspect or view records, such as genealogical resources, business records, and tax records, at the Library of Virginia. The Library of Virginia is the principal custodian of all government-generated records in the state. Hence, requesters can inspect public records at any of the public terminals in the Library of Virginia. On the other hand, law enforcement agencies may allow record subjects and crime victims to view arrest records for free.
Request for Online Copies of Virginia Public Documents
Virginia public agencies may maintain online databases for public documents. Sometimes, these online public documents are obtainable for free. For instance, Virginia sex offenders' information is accessible via an online search portal. The Virginia Department of State Police, via the Sex Offender and Crimes against Minors Registry, is the custodian of all registered and absconded sex offenders. To access sex offender information via the registry, record seekers may use one of the search options listed below:
Search by address;
Search by zip code;
Search by County;
Search by School.
Commonwealth citizens can also seek public county records, such as judgments, court cases, and vital records, by contacting their local county clerk's office. Meanwhile, one can look up public records pertaining to real estate ownership in a county, including deeds, through the county recorder's office.
The commitment of the United States of America is to remain a fair and just society for all. The state of Virginia began collecting public records in 1810, and these records cover the states 95 counties. Over the last 30 years, digitization of public records has become the standard, meaning both governmental and third party websites are able to offer records online with increased reliability.