Private Investigators In Virginia

PI Chatter Professional Investigators in Virginia

Want VA Criminal Records? Use VA FOIA

Posted by Bill on November 7, 2007

When you are doing a background investigation, you look for all public records concerning the subject of the investigation.  You find criminal records and information in Virginia by going to the local court and searching the criminal case index and case files.  There is no easy, statewide criminal database to check for a person’s criminal records.  In fact, professional investigators know that there is no national criminal records check available despite the numerous claims made by data providers on the Internet.  The closet national criminal records check is only legally available to law enforcement.  The FBI maintains the NCIC–National Crime Information Center which contains a database of criminal arrests and convictions that are submitted to the FBI.  If a local jurisdiction does not submit the record, it will not be in NCIC.  But, I digress. 

What criminal records are available under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?  First, you must know that Virginia’s FOIA is located at Virginia Code § 2.2-3700 through 3714.  Under VA Code § 2.2-3704, all “public records” are open to inspection and copying except as otherwise provided by law.  That is the catch in Virginia.  There are more exceptions to what records are available under the VA FOIA than hairs on back of a pedigreeed Black & Tan Coon Hound–a beautiful dog in my opinion. 

But for criminal records there is § 2.2-3706–Disclosure of Criminal Records: limitations.  This section provides that “criminal incident information” shall be made available by law enforcement agencies to a requestor unless release is likely to jeopardize an ongoing investigation, prosecution or safety of an individual or causing a suspect to flee.  The information released should be description of criminal activity, date and general location of the alleged crime, identity of the investigating officer and a general description of any injury or damage.  Also, the identity of the individual arrested and charged and the status of the charge or arrest shall be released. 

Under § 2.2-3706 there are other criminal record information that, in discretion of the custodian, may be disclosed.  Some of the records, among other, are: reports, witness statements and evidence relating to a criminal investigation or prosecution; arrestee photographs; records of persons imprisoned in the Commonwealth; and records of adults on probation in the Commonwealth. 

So, if you are a professional investigator and you do not use the VA FOIA in your investigative research, you are missing potentially “case making” information.  as part of your investigations.  Now, sometimes it pays you to sit down and read the law and use it in your investigations.  PIAVA makes it easy for you to dig into VA FOIA resources.  Look to the left column of this Blog and you see the Blogroll.  We have two links there for you to use to research the FOIA — www.opengovva.org, the Virginia Coalition for Open Government and www.rcfp.org, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.  Both sites have explanations of the State and Federal FOIA and even have “letter generators” for you to use.  How easy can it be?

As always, if you need more information, contact me and

keep on asking questions.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA 

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