How to Obtain Court Records in the State of Virginia?
The Right to Access Virginia Court Records
Under the law Va. Code § 17.1-208, a person has the right to review and request a copy of most documents and records that are filed within the Virginia state courts. This is with accordance with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. These are papers or records of any court that are preserved by a circuit court clerk. They are open for review by anyone. Virginia’s Supreme Court has included this provision in order to give individuals their constitutional right to openness. The right to access public records is not unconditional. It is up to the court to seal off certain records according to particular circumstances, i.e. an ongoing court case.
Which Virginia State Court Records are Excluded from This Law?
According to Va. Code § 2.2-3706, there are some types of court records which are excluded from public availability. One important omission is criminal files that may affect or hinder an ongoing inquiry. Other examples include court cases that reveal the name of a particular witness who was promised anonymity or a case that may destroy the privacy of youth. This is also applicable to the names of victims of sexual abuse.
Court records may also be sealed if it is found that release of these records may affect a defendant’s constitutional right to a just trial. The party opting for the seal “bears the burden of establishing an interest so compelling that it cannot be protected reasonably by some measure other than” completely sealing the documents (Lotz, 672 S.E.2d at 837). The interest to seal court records need to be specific. The risk of emotional damage, financial harm or harm to professional reputation is not sufficient reasons to seal a court record.
A court order needs to be issued in order to get court records sealed.
How to Get Court Records in Virginia?
To obtain a copy of your court records, visit the courthouse where your case took place. You will be requested to complete a request form and submit it to the courthouse clerk. may request your public records. To access the phone number, location and website of Virginia’s courts, visit Virginia’s Judicial System online.
You may also access your Virginia Court Records Online.1. Visit Virginia's Judicial System Online.2. Select ‘ Case Status and Information’3. Select ‘Online Case Information System Statewide Search’4. Read all the terms and conditions and then select ‘Accept’.5. Under ‘Name’, enter the person’s name, case number or hearing date. You can specify your search by selecting Court Level, Criminal/Traffic and the name of the specific court under All Courts.6. You may also search for court records under ‘General District Court Online Case Information System’. This is located on the ‘Case Status and Information’ page.
What Types of Information can You Access in a Virginia Court Records Search?
Which Types of Information Are Not Accessible?
You are allowed to access information regarding motions and pleadings related to a particular lawsuit, docket information, evidence entered into court by either the defense or prosecution, hearing transcripts, court orders, and court decisions, etc. Unsealed information about a person’s mental health evaluations that were admitted as evidence for a hearing, unsealed petitions seeking approval for settlements in wrongful death cases may also be accessed.
The public may not access information linked to an ongoing case such as materials discovered but not filed within the court, trial exhibits not submitted as evidence and any notes or written information written by court personnel, i.e. judges.