Are Arrest Records Public in Virginia
Yes. The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), found in the Code of Virginia at § 2.2-3706 et seq., grants residents of the Commonwealth and members of the media access to public documents kept by public bodies, public officials, and public workers. Anyone interested in reviewing a public arrest record should contact the law enforcement department that made the arrest.
What is Considered an Arrest Record in Virginia
Anyone caught or suspected of breaking the state's Penal Code in Virginia can be arrested and brought to trial for a criminal crime.
The arresting officer will write a report in the person's name once they have been arrested. An arrest record is a report that contains information on an individual's booking and custody as a result of the alleged commission of an infraction, misdemeanor, or crime.
What Shows Up on an Arrest Record in Virginia
A documented report of a person's arrest by the police is known as an arrest record. As a result, the following information is often included in the record:
- Physical characteristics: Weight, height, sex, eye and hair colour, race, tattoos, and any distinguishing characteristics of the suspect
- Personal information: Complete name and aliases of the suspect, age, birthplace, current residence, occupational position, social security number, and so forth.
- Arrest and booking information: Mug shot, fingerprints, booking number, date and time of booking, time and date of arrest, place of arrest, kind of arrest, arresting agency, bail amount, time and mode of release, existing warrants (if any), and so on
- Crime information: The kind of crime (i.e., infraction, felony, or misdemeanor), a narrative of the criminal occurrence (which may be supplemented with information received from witnesses and victims), the next court date, and any criminal charges for which an individual was held.
- Details regarding the police interrogation.
Who Can Access Virginia Arrest Records
The subject of the record, an employer, an insurance company, a legal representation, a victim, a witness, a government agency, a bail bondsman, and any interested third parties can all view arrest records created by local law enforcement authorities. However, due to federal and state exemptions, some arrest records or information may be kept from public disclosure. The following records will be exempted from public view if:
- The record is for a juvenile suspect and can only be disclosed to a parent, a person who received a Juvenile Court order, or any entity authorized by law to receive the record; a law enforcement agency, district attorney, probation department, the subject of the record, a coroner, and so on are examples of these entities.
- A person involved in a criminal investigation's safety will be jeopardized if the record or information is made public.
- Making the record or information public will obstruct or endanger an inquiry or other relevant investigation.
- Records of completed unattended death investigations must be sent to the decedent's parent or spouse, or, if there is no living parent or spouse, to the decedent's closest immediate family member, providing the individual is not a person of interest or a suspect. For this section, "unattended death" means a death judged to be a suicide, accidental or natural death in which no criminal charges will be filed and "immediate family" means the decedent's representative or, if no personal representative has qualified, the decedent's next of kin in the order of intestate succession as laid forth in the Will.
Another major reason the police may refuse to reveal an arrest record to the public is if the ongoing court case has been resolved. As a result, the arrest record has become part of a person's local criminal history, which is not subject to the state's public record disclosure rules and may only be viewed by a limited number of persons and agencies.
Virginia Arrest Search
Virginia arrest records (also known as arrest reports) are public documents that contain information regarding persons who have been detained and questioned by police for committing a crime. The state's law enforcement agencies create and retain these records once a person is arrested, regardless of the alleged offense.
Virginia arrest records, while commonly mistaken for Virginia criminal records, are not absolute evidence of a person's wrongdoing. Rather, it gives information on an arrest made on suspicion of criminal behavior, which might be crucial to a person's conviction. Not all arrests result in a criminal conviction, thus, the law allows for the deletion of arrest records, particularly where a person has been wrongfully charged or released.
Virginia Arrest Statistics
The Data Analysis and Reporting Team (DART), a division of the Attorney General's Office, gathers statistical data every year from local law enforcement agencies that depict, among other things, police arrest rates and demographic data on arrestees.
The state police made 206,609 arrests in 2020, according to the Crime in Virginia report. There were 197,328 adults (about 96% approximately) and 9,281 juveniles among those arrested.
The overall number of arrests is also broken down per crime level in the report. Arrest for Murder and Nonnegligent Manslaughter totaled 344, Forced Rape equaled 245, Statutory Rape totaled equaled 50, Kidnaping/Abduction equaled 1,046, Simple assault totaled 26,166, and Aggravated Assault equaled 4,928.
In terms of gender and race, more males (148,432) were arrested than females (58,290). Caucasians were also arrested the most (119,899), followed by the Black/African American (82,699), while other races shared the remaining figure in smaller numbers. Furthermore, arrestees that were unarmed were 97.3%, arrestees with firearms totaled 2%, arrestees with cutting instruments totaled 0.7%, and other weapons totaled 0.1%.
Furthermore, arrests for crimes against a person occured more frequently than an arrest for a crime against property. Arrests for crimes against a person include 26,166 for Simple Assault, 4,928 for Aggravated Assault, 1,158 for Intimidation, and 1,046 for Kidnapping/Abduction, among others.
While an arrest for Crime against property include 9,173 for Shoplifting, 7,695 for All other Larceny, 3,259 for Destruction/Damage/Vandalism of Property, 2,297 for False Pretense/Swindle/Confidence Game, 1,767 for Burglary/Breaking & Entering, 1,068 for Motor Vehicle Theft, 1,034 for Robbery, and 1.030 for Counterfeiting/Forgery.
According to Crime in Virginia 2021, a total of 187,408 arrests were recorded across Virginia State by law enforcement agencies in 2021. The report presents a continuous decline in the arrest rate when compared with the number of arrests made in previous years. There were a total of 274,636 arrests in 2019 and 206,609 in 2020. This represents a 24.8% decrease in 2020 and 9.3% in 2021. The crime analysis report further presents the arrest statistics in the following categories
- Crime against persons 34,923
- Crime against property 27,827
- Crime against society 20,416
- Group B crime arrest 104,242
Obtaining Virginia Public Arrest Records
Virginia arrest search can be done through the official custodians of arrest records in Virginia. Arrests are primarily made by the County Sheriffs and Police Departments, who maintain the record of every arrest in their area of duty. To conduct a Virginia arrest search, record seekers may call or visit the office of the County Sheriff or Police Department for an in-person arrest record search. Arrest record search may also be done remotely by using the online search tools on the websites of the County Sheriffs and local and state Police Departments. Record seekers need to provide basic specificity about the subject of the search, such as name, address, date of birth, etc. A Virginia arrest record search may provide the following basic information about an arrested individual as contained in the arrest report.
- City, state, zip
- Specific crime
- Statute description
- Offense jurisdiction
- Arrest date/ time
- Booking date/ time
- Booking photo (mugshot)
Some information on the arrest report may not be granted public access if such access may affect an ongoing police investigation, or compromise the personal safety of the arrested individual or others.
How Do I Look Up Someone's Arrest Records in Virginia
In most circumstances, the individual asking to examine an arrest record in Virginia is the subject of the record (the apprehended party). Individuals other than the record holder, however, are permitted to seek public arrest records under state law.
The local Sheriff's office or Police department in charge of the arrest is the first place to ask about an arrest record. It's a good idea to call or check the proper department's official website for details on how to see an arrest record. The reason for this is that record distribution techniques and fees change from one agency to the next.
For example, some offices, such as the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Department, have online forms that requesters may fill out and submit. Some, such as the Northampton County Sheriff's Department and Chesterfield County Sheriff's Department, offer printable record request forms that may be sent, emailed, or delivered in person. Others may demand a requester's actual presence before records can be provided. Additionally, some sheriffs' websites may provide access to recent arrest information.
To execute a FOIA request, a local law enforcement agency would often require identifying information on the arrestee, such as full name, arrest date, case number, or booking number. Personal information such as the requester's complete name, postal address, contact phone number, and valid picture identification will also be required. It should be noted that local law enforcement agencies demand a cost for providing copies, which can be paid in cash, cheque, or money order.
In addition to obtaining an arrestee's local or state criminal history record from a local police agency, some parties can also request an arrestee's arrest record from a local police agency. This sort of record includes more detailed arrest details. It is, however, limited to the subject of an arrest record, law enforcement agencies, some employers and regulatory organizations, and others permitted under Virginia Freedom of Information Act § 2.2-3706.
It's worth noting that local law enforcement agencies keep local criminal records, which include arrests made in their jurisdiction. State criminal history records, on the other hand, can be obtained from the state's Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and provide a more comprehensive picture of a person's arrest history in the state.
How to Subpoena Arrest Records in Virginia
The Freedom of Information Act in Virginia gives the general public access to arrest records. This right, however, is not absolute. Under the FOIA, the public usually has access to only a portion of an arrest record, and in rare circumstances, the whole record may be excluded from publication.
When an entity needs to access restricted or non-FOIA records from a law enforcement agency, a subpoena is required. One of the most prevalent reasons for requesting such access is for law enforcement or judicial purposes. For example, if a court case is ongoing and some time has gone after the arrest, an individual may need to subpoena an arrest record.
A subpoena (also known as a Subpoena Duces Tecum) is a court order directing someone to appear in court or provide certain papers. In Virginia, subpoenaing arrest records is a two-step process. All that is required is for an individual to download and fill out a subpoena form with as much information as possible before submitting it to the court clerk for issue (i.e., for signature and stamp). The person must next serve it on the appropriate police department's or sheriff's office's records custodian.
Subpoena forms and packets are available for download on most courts' websites. Otherwise, type "subpoena" into the search box on the Virginia Judicial Branch's forms page to get the application form. The right form to use, for example, if the arrest record is for a criminal or traffic court action, is DC-336.
Before serving a police department or sheriff, an individual may be required to pay a non-refundable processing fee. A process server or anybody over the age of 18 can hand-deliver the subpoena to the custodian. Following service, the server must file a Proof of Service (which is often included in a subpoena forms package) with the court.
Even though the subpoena procedure in Virginia is simple, individuals should contact a lawyer to ensure they meet all legal criteria. They can also call the law enforcement agency responsible for the arrest record to confirm the service procedure.
Keep in mind that in Virginia, juvenile arrest records cannot be subpoenaed. Under the Virginia Rule of Court, anybody who is ineligible to receive a juvenile record must petition the Juvenile Court for accessibility. This includes sending or hand-delivering the paperwork listed below to the court and serving them on all parties involved:
- Virginia Criminal History Request Form (SP-167/SP-230 Web Form)
- Parent/Guardian Permission Form (Form PPF-16)
The request may be subjected to charges.
How to Search for an Inmate in the Virginia Prison System
Individuals who have been imprisoned for trial/sentencing or sentenced to a period of imprisonment or rehabilitation are held in the Virginia prison system, which consists of state prisons, correctional institutes, detention centers, and conservation (fire) camps.
A person can use the Public Offender Locator System provided by the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC), the organization in charge of operating the state's prison system, to look for an inmate within the Virginia prison system. To receive results, the searcher needs to know the inmate's last name or VADOC Offender I.D. number. Other needed information include:
- Full name of the inmate
- VADOC identification number
- Date of Admission
- Present location
- Information on parole
If the inmate's whereabouts cannot be identified via the Inmate Locator System, the inquirer can call the VADOC's Identification Unit at (804) 674-3000.
Individuals can also utilize inmate lookup tools, which are frequently accessible on the websites of county sheriffs, to narrow their search. Such sites can include information on an inmate's name, arrest, booking, bail, housing location, and offense/case information.
It should be emphasized that records for juvenile inmates are not available online.
How Do I Find Out if Someone Was in Jail in Virginia
The online inmate search tools offered by the Virginia Department of Corrections and local sheriffs only give information about current inmates. Furthermore, Virginia does not have a centralized database of former prisoners. As a result, anybody who wishes to know if someone has been in jail or prison must contact the supervisory sheriff's or police department or VADOC.
How to Find Recent Arrests in Virginia
To find recent arrests in Virginia, record seekers may conduct record searches by jurisdiction (municipality or county). Arrest reports generated during the booking of an arrested individual are immediately available at the County Sheriff’s office or the local Police Department of the area where such an arrest is made. So, information about the most recent arrests is available at the local law enforcement office in a County or municipality.
For instance, Henrico County Police Department provides access to arrest records through the Public Crime Data Access portal. Record seekers can use the Search Arrest Reports tool on the portal to find information about recent arrests in Henrico County. This search may be done by date range, crime category, and/ or specific category. Arrest search by this tool will generate the information contained in the arrest reports such as name, age, city/state/zip, crime information, offense jurisdiction, arrest date/ time, booking date/ time, and booking photo (mugshot)
Similarly, the Newport County Sheriff's news portal provides a daily log of arrests made in the county. Record seekers can use the View Daily Arrest Reports tool to find the most recent arrests in Newport County.
How Long Do Virginia Arrest Records Stay on File
Standard retention periods for arrest records are not specified under Virginia law. As a result, law enforcement agencies follow the timetables set out by legal, departmental, and managerial guidelines.
The length of time a Virginia arrest record is kept on file is determined by the agency in charge of the record's record retention policy, which may be based on:
- The occurrence that led to the arrest record being created, such as whether the offense was a felony or a misdemeanor
- Whether or not the related court matter has been settled, or whether or not the person has completed all of the penalties imposed.
Arrest records, for example, are kept on file by the Department of Justice until the person reaches the age of 100. Arrest records kept by local law enforcement authorities, on the other hand, have different retention schedules. Nonetheless, the government may use extended retention periods for documents relating to an escapee not caught, homicide, a sex offence, or a crime involving minors.
What is the Difference Between an Arrest Record and an Arrest Warrant
The primary distinction between an arrest record and an arrest warrant is the legal document's function. An arrest record contains information on an arrest, including the identity of the suspect. Meanwhile, an arrest warrant permits law enforcement to make a legal arrest in its jurisdiction without infringing on a person's Rights As a citizen.
Another difference is that, although an arresting law enforcement agency creates an arrest record, a warrant is issued at the demand of a police officer or district attorney by a court or magistrate. However, before the court may issue a warrant, the seeking officer must have reasonable suspicion that someone has committed a crime. As a result, an arrest warrant can be considered to prepare the way for the development of an arrest record.
Are Virginia Arrest Reports Public?
Arrest reports are mandatory official documents generated by law enforcement officials upon the arrest of a suspect or an offender. This report is generated through a process of documenting the arrest of an individual before the suspect is detained (if applicable). Arrest reports are generated through the booking process. An arrest report typically contains personal information of the arrested individual, the reason for the arrest, the place/date/time of the arrest, and places of booking/detention (for an individual incarcerated after the arrest). Per Virginia Freedom of Information Act, arrest reports are public records in Virginia and government agencies may provide online access to these records.
Arrest reports are different from arrest records, though they may contain similar information. An arrest report is the official documentation of information about a particular arrest event, while an arrest record is a compilation of information about all the times an individual has been arrested.
What is the Difference Between an Arrest Record and a Criminal Record?
In Virginia, an arrest record is frequently referred to as a criminal record. While the records appear to be similar and their impacts frequently overlap, there is a major difference between them.
An arrest record simply shows that someone was accused of committing a crime. That individual may or may not be found guilty of a criminal procedure at the end of the day. A criminal record, on the other hand, is generated upon a person's conviction and contains information on their whole criminal past. This contains all arrests, warrants, prosecutions, and punishments.
A person cannot have a criminal record unless they have been convicted of a crime. Nonetheless, even if hauled in on suspicion of a minor violation, the party will receive an arrest record.
How to Obtain Arrest Records for Free in Virginia
Obtaining an arrest record from a Virginia law enforcement agency sometimes necessitates the payment of a modest charge. The individual will be responsible for the cost of reproduction because the agency will most likely provide copies of the document to the requester.
In Virginia, however, the websites of the county sheriffs provide one method to access arrest information for free. Even so, a person may only be able to obtain information on recent arrests.
How to Search for a Virginia Arrest Record Online Using a Third-Party Search Service
Obtaining a physical copy of an arrest record or finding it online through databases kept by law enforcement organizations might be difficult at times. When this happens, a person can use a third-party search service to get the information they need without having to wait for extended periods.
To locate a Virginia arrest record via a third-party search service, an individual must first open their web browser and visit the desired site, where they must enter the record owner's first and last name into the search boxes provided. To acquire the record, the requester will most likely have to pay a one-time cost or subscribe to a monthly subscription.
How to Correct an Arrest Record in Virginia
Individuals who wish to dispute their personal criminal history record information must complete the documentation given by the criminal justice agency keeping the record and submit it to the Central Criminal Records Exchange or the criminal justice agency maintaining the record. The individual initiating the challenge or review may keep a duplicate copy of the form and the disputed record on file. The person's arrest record for crimes and Class 1 and 2 misdemeanors may be contested at the Department of State Police's Central Criminal Records Exchange.
For offenses that are not obliged to be submitted to the Central Criminal Records Exchange, the complaint must be filed with the arresting law enforcement agency or the Criminal Justice Agency that keeps the records.
The criminal justice agency or agencies responsible for creating the challenged record will then examine their source data, the contents of the complaint, and the information provided by the Central Criminal Records Exchange for any inconsistencies or mistakes, and report the findings to the Central Criminal Records Exchange.
If a Central Criminal Records Exchange record needs to be modified, the Central Criminal Records Exchange will do so and then notify the criminal justice agency that the record was initially reviewed of its action, as well as any other agencies engaged in the review, and provide them with a copy of the updated record.
All recipients of the record within the previous 24 months will be notified of the rectification by the Central Criminal Records Exchange.
How to Expunge Arrest Records in Virginia
In Virginia, there are several options for sealing or destroying arrest records. The most common approach is to submit a petition with the court under the state's Criminal Procedure § 19.2-392.2. The applicable legislation is determined by the facts of the case.
Adults who have been arrested but not convicted are entitled to file a petition under the § 19.2-392.2 Criminal Procedure. The following are examples of situations in which the legislation applies:
- Although an arrest was made, no criminal charges were brought.
- Criminal charges were filed, however, they were later dropped.
- A trial was held, but the subject of the record was found not guilty.
- The criminal charges against the subject were dropped when the subject completed a diversion program.
- There was a conviction, but it was reversed on appeal, and the charges were dropped.
To pursue an expungement, the following process will be followed:
- The petitioner must obtain a complete set of fingerprints from a law enforcement agency and give a copy of the petition for expungement to that agency. The law enforcement agency must provide the fingerprints and a copy of the expungement petition to the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE).
- A copy of the petitioner's criminal history, a copy of the source documents that resulted in the CCRE record that the petitioner seeks to erase, and a set of fingerprints shall be sent to the court under seal by the CCRE.
- Following the conclusion of the hearing, the court must return the fingerprint card to the petitioner. If no hearing was held, the court shall destroy the fingerprint card upon the entry of an order of expungement or an order refusing the petition for expungement unless the petitioner requests the fingerprint card in person from the clerk of the court or provides the clerk of the court with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for the return of the fingerprint card within 30 days of the date of the entry of the order.
- The court will hold a hearing on the petition after obtaining the criminal history record information from the CCRE. If the court decides that the ongoing presence and possible distribution of material about the petitioner's arrest causes or may create circumstances that constitute a manifest injustice to the petitioner, the court must issue an order ordering the erasure of all police and court records relating to the charge, including electronic data. Otherwise, the petition will be denied.
- However, if the petitioner has no previous criminal history and the arrest was for a minor infraction or the charge was for a civil offense, the petitioner is entitled, in the absence of good reason proved to the contrary by the Commonwealth of Virginia, to expungement of the police and court records about the charge, and the court shall issue an order of expungement. If the attorney for the Commonwealth of the county or city in which the petition is filed (i) gives written notice to the court under subsection D that he does not object to the petition and (ii) stipulates in such written notice that the continued existence and possible dissemination of information relating to the petitioner's arrest cause or may cause circumstances that constitute a manifest injustice to the petitioner, the petition is granted.
- Upon receipt of a copy of a writ vacating a conviction under Sections 19.2-327.5 or 19.2-327.13, the court shall make an order ordering the expungement of the police and court records about the charge and conviction. Such order shall include a statement that the expungement is being issued by this paragraph. The order shall be regarded as specified in subsection K upon its entry.
- Upon the entry of an order of expungement, the clerk of the court shall forward a copy of such order to the Department of State Police, which shall direct how the appropriate expungement or removal of such records shall be effected by the rules and regulations adopted under 9.1-134.