In the state of Virginia, the police maintain a database of crime history records at the Central Criminal Records Exchange. These records are compiled from the information sent by law enforcement agencies, public prosecutors and tribunals from all over the state. Along with the CCRE which serves as the state wide repository for all crime records, the Virginia Police is also in charge of the Non-Criminal Justice Interface (NCJI) which is an internet based system that can be used for conducting limited Virginia Criminal Records Searches.
Information offered in response to a criminal background check request made to the CCRE will generally include the name of the offender along with a physical description of the individual in question including gender, race, height and discerning physical marks and a list of all the charges filed against the accused. Also offered are details on sentencing and incarceration facility where the prisoner is being held.
Although the state of Virginia does have its very own version of the Freedom of Information Act in place which allows the general public to access all records held by state agencies, the law only applies in a restricted sense to criminal information. For instance, while it is possible for individuals to request a personal crime history report, to conduct a background check on a third party, they will need a consent form duly signed by the subject of the inquiry.
The facility to conduct a crime history information search is only available to government agencies, licensing departments of the state, law enforcement entities, individuals who run certain government and nongovernment or nonprofit establishments and employers who operate agencies that offer care for children and physically or mentally disabled adults, child welfare organizations and schools.
While the NCIJ is an easier, name based search provision offered for approved entities, it cannot be used by the general public for random, third party checks. Employers who can request such information by law are required to pay $15 for each name based search and the results of such request are furnished through the electronic medium.
For finger print based searches, an additional fee of $13 is applicable; however this is restricted to the state held records. For federal information, you will have to pay an extra $24. When using the service for a personal background check, individuals will have to submit a signed and notarized form for a criminal records search along with the $15 fee.
The state of Virginia does offer a legal provision for the expungement of arrest records when the person in question is found not guilty or is released by reason of being wrongly convicted in the first place, in cases where the charges are dismissed for any reason and also in nolle prosequi instances where the plaintiff or the prosecutor decides not to pursue the matter further.
What is an arrest warrant?
In the state of Virginia, an arrest warrant is defined as a process for bringing an accused before a tribunal to stand trial for his/her indiscretions. Such a decree for detention can only be issued by the sitting magistrate of a county or circuit court or juvenile tribunal with criminal jurisdiction. Warrants are also frequently released by other judicial entities like district and domestic relation courts.
However in matter pertaining to a felony, a warrant can only be issued when an express complaint is filed before the judiciary by an officer of the law or an animal control official. Also such a detention order cannot be issued in homicide cases without an authorization from the attorney of the Commonwealth of Virginia as per section 18.2-31 of the state criminal code.
Although this law holds true in case of issue of a warrant, once released the order cannot be squashed just because this legal perquisite has not been met. Such a reason will not serve as the basis for prevention or delay in the execution of the sentence or for the reversal of the warrant or even the conviction.
A warrant is issued at the behest of the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over the offense in question. A writ has to be filed in court which details the incident and the role of the accused in it. The information has to be enough to establish a probable cause which is a mandate for the issue of all arrest orders. In case of the inadequacy of such a complaint, the magistrate may call upon the witnesses or the victim to offer sworn testimony which will then form the basis of warrant issue.
A warrant is expressly issued in the state of Virginia as a judicial order to bring the alleged perpetrator before the court, to assist the peace officers in bringing this person in by mentioning the name of the offender or a physical description and to describe the charges being filed against the individual with reasonable certainty. The order will always bear the signature of the issuing authority and it will be released in keeping with the powers granted by the state to the judicial entity.
While seeking such a decree of detention is the norm in cases where the crime has not been committed in front of a police officer, a law enforcement official can also take a person into custody if he has grounds to believe that the individual has already been involved in a felony or will commit such an act. Once issued, an arrest warrant is not limited by duration or geography; this simply means that a member of the sheriff's team can apprehend the individual in whose name the warrant has been released from anywhere in the county.
Also, an active warrant never goes out of effect, it is only recalled when probable cause no longer exist as another person is found to be culpable for the crime. An arrest can also be made on the basis of a warrant issued in another county or state depending on the nature of the crime. However, the accused will be deported to the issuing county to stand trial, in which case the geographical division that was responsible for the release of the warrant will have to foot the bill for such deportation. So, such a measure is rarely ever used in case of misdemeanor charges.
How to search for inmates in the Virginia Jail and Prison System?
The Virginia department of Correction, which is responsible for the execution of punitive verdicts delivered by the courts of the state, runs 44 incarceration facilities throughout the state. This includes prisons, work centers, jails, pre-release centers and other correctional units. The DOC is also in charge of the parole board and the rehabilitation of the along with ensuring the safety of the community when granting release to the offenders.
To this end, the department offers an online tool which provides limited access to information on inmates lodged in various correctional centers run by the DOC. To access the tool, visit the official website of the Virginia DOC at http://www.vadoc.state.va.us/offenders/locator/index.cfm. You will have two options to search for information on a prisoner. You can either use the 7 digit unique DOC number assigned to every inmate or the first and last name of the offender. After inserting the required information, you will merely have to click on search to access the results page which will contain such information as the name of the subject, the DOC number of the inmate, gender, race, location where incarcerated and the projected date of release.
The Department of Corrections also has a Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) program in place which is designed to offer quick and regular updates on the status of a prisoner in the correctional system through phone or over the internet. To get these details, you will have to register with the VINE program and provide an email id or a telephone number where the information can be delivered to you.
Who can search for arrest records and warrants in Virginia and how?
Pursuant to section 2.2-3700 of the Virginia Code which is also known as the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, citizens of the state and representatives of the media are granted access to all records that are deemed public and are prepared and held by state agencies. This includes data held in hard copy as well as electronic formats.
However, despite this law, only limited access is available to crime information and that is only provided to certain factions of the society like non justice and licensing government agencies and employers and establishments that offer care to disabled adults, children and to some school boards. Even in case of authorized applicants, employers are only granted access to a limited amount of crime data through the NCIJ program and they have to furnish a release from the subject of such an inquiry.
How to request records under Virginia specific laws, freedom of information?
There are three options to access arrest record details in Virginia, depending on the authorization that the applicant possesses under the Freedom of Information Act of the state. Generally, the process for background checks entails filling out the requisite form and getting it notarized. This has to be sent to the Central Criminal Records Exchange of Virginia State Police with the appropriate fee. It usually takes anywhere from 12 to 14 business days to receive the results of such an inquiry.
In accordance with section 19.2-389 of the Virginia Code, two forms are used for the dissemination of crime history information, depending on the authorization category of the applicant. The first of these is form SP-167 which is to be used by private employers, individuals and members of the public at large. The form has to be notarized as mentioned above before it is sent to the CCRE.
It can be downloaded from the website of Virginia State Police along with Form SP-230 which is for use by facilities and centers that offer adult day care, child care, hospital pharmacies, adoption and foster care centers. SP-230 does not require notarization and also the results of the inquiry conducted in response to this request form will bring back all information on arrests regardless of the disposition of the matter. A fee of $15 is charged for SP-230 searches. The duly filled forms are to be sent to the Department of State Police at PO Box 85076, Richmond, Virginia 23261-5076
Entities which are statutorily entitled to receive information on crime history can also use the NCIJ system offered by the CCRE which provides results through electronic means within 72 hours of request. Agencies which are authorized to use this system include:
- Foster care agencies
- State gaming commission
- State volunteer boards and agencies
- State lottery
- Office of Interdepartmental regulations
- Adoption agencies both domestic and international
- Board of alcohol beverage control
- Public school boards
- Security agencies both armed and unarmed
- State board of elections
- State Racing Commission
- State Board of Corporate Commissions
- State and international agencies that issue visas and passports for international travel
- Virginia Power Department
- State departments of social mental health services
For questions pertaining to crime history checks, you can get in touch with the CCRE at 804-674-6718. Finally, a third option for data on arrest warrants and records is the database maintained by the judicial department on the state. This can be accessed through the website of Virginia courts at http://www.courts.state.va.us/caseinfo/