West Virginia Court Records
West Virginia Arrest Records
West Virginia arrest records are official documents that detail the circumstances surrounding the apprehension of an individual suspected of criminal activity. This information is typically based on a police officer's firsthand observation of a person committing a crime or third-party testimony. Following an arrest, the individual is transported to a holding facility, typically a local jail or state prison. At the facility, they are booked, and an arrest record is generated.
An arrest record details information about the suspect, as well as details of events that take place from arrest to arraignment and bail. This document may also contain the outcome of the arrest: whether the individual was convicted and sentenced for the crime. Generally, people obtain arrest records in West Virginia as part of a background check for official purposes or simply to satisfy personal curiosity. As such, having an arrest record can carry social implications.
West Virginia law enforcement agencies reported a total of 28,575 arrests in 2022, according to data from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Drug abuse violations were the most common reason for arrests (19.84), followed by simple assault (12.03%), larceny-theft (10.1%), and driving under the influence (7.7%). Overall, male offenders made up 70.6% of arrestees, while female offenders made up 29.4% of the total number of arrestees.
Are Arrest Records Public in West Virginia?
Yes. West Virginia arrest records are public per the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act (W. Va. Code § 29B-1-1 et seq.). Generally, adult arrest records are available to interested persons unless otherwise restricted by law or court order. Arrest records typically exempted from public access contain information that could jeopardize the safety or privacy of an individual. Similarly, the West Virginia FOIA restricts access to juvenile arrest records, i.e., records of persons under 18 years (W. Va. Code §29B-1-4).
For restricted arrest records, only the subject, authorized public servants, or third parties authorized by a court order may access them. Regardless, if releasing an arrest record will compromise the integrity of a law enforcement investigation or criminal justice proceedings, the custodian will temporarily suspend access. The confidential details will be redacted if the custodian is compelled to release such a record. Otherwise, the requester will be required to obtain a subpoena before accessing the record.
What is Included in West Virginia Arrest Records?
A West Virginia arrest record typically features:
- The subject's biodata, including full name, aliases, age, date of birth, and address;
- A physical bodily description, including height, weight, race, markings or tattoos;
- Photograph or mugshot;
- Time and arrest location;
- Arresting law enforcement agency;
- Subject's incarceration or custody status;
- Booking details, including the booking date and time, release or transfer date;
- Case number;
- Bond/bail details, including amount and type.
Find Public Arrest Records in West Virginia
To find an arrest record in West Virginia, inquirers may contact the record custodian directly or use their online resources (if self-service options are available). Finding public arrest records in West Virginia is similar across jurisdictions and typically follows this process:
- Find and contact the record custodian;
- Submit a record request;
- Pay the applicable fees.
The record custodian for publicly available arrest records in West Virginia is the arresting agency, i.e., the Sheriff's Office, local police department, or jail facility. A way to find this custodian is by knowing the county where the arrest happened, and finding out the name of the local law enforcement agency or regional jail. Then, the searcher must contact the agency to submit the request. Most agencies have guidelines for submitting public records requests on their website.
Next, the searcher must submit a request. Generally, record custodians provide requestors with three options:
- Searching an online arrest log.
- Sending a mail request.
- Visiting the office in person to search.
The online search option is the most convenient because the result is available presently. Mail-in requests involve drafting a letter describing the record sought with sufficient details to facilitate a record search. In contrast, in-person searches involve scheduling a prior appointment unless the agency permits a walk-in.
To complete the search, the requestor must pay the applicable fees—this usually applies to persons requesting the public record by mail or in person. Mail applicants must send an application packet containing the letter, a money order for applicable fees, and a self-addressed envelope. Note that the self-addressed stamped envelope is separate from the application packet envelope.
Obtaining Restricted Arrest Records in West Virginia
When an arrest record contains sensitive information, the custodian cannot make the record available to the public, and only authorized persons may access these records. To get authorization, the requestor must possess a court order. To obtain a court order granting access to a restricted arrest record, the searcher must petition a court of competent jurisdiction—usually the Circuit Court in the jurisdiction where the arrest happened. The process for submitting a petition may vary from court to court, so inquirers are advised to contact the Circuit Court Clerk's Office for the necessary information or seek professional legal services.
The court considers several factors when considering a petition for access to restricted records. For one, the court will weigh the requestor's need to access that record against the need to protect the confidentiality of the information the record contains. Furthermore, the court will consider the petitioner's motive and the resulting consequences of releasing the information. The court may hold a hearing to decide this petition in certain cases.
If the petition is granted, the court will issue an order and serve the record custodian listed in the petition. The order will contain the court's decision and describe the terms under which the requestor may view restricted documents. Likewise, the requestor must attach a copy of the order when submitting their record request. Note that orders granting access to restricted records may limit what is available to the viewer. In this case, the record custodian will redact the most sensitive content of the documents before the requestor accesses the sought record.
How to Lookup Arrest Records Online in West Virginia
Public arrest records are available on online databases maintained by local and state criminal justice agencies. To find an arrest record online, visit the official website of the law enforcement agency that made the arrest. At the county level, this is the Sheriff's Office, but at the state level, this information is maintained by the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
The online record search portals maintained by these record custodians support name-based searches for individuals in custody. To conduct a search, input the arrestee's last and first name into the fields provided. It is also possible to search by last name only if the first name is not known. The drawback with a last name search is that it is less specific and will return all arrestees with that last name. The searcher would need to go through all matching results in this case. This may be inconvenient if the last name is common. Hence, it is advisable to search with the arrestee's full name or unique identification number if known.
Meanwhile, it is possible to obtain arrest records from third-party online sources. These independent aggregator websites can be helpful when the searcher does not know the specific custodian for the arrest record they seek. However, because these service providers are associated with the government, there is no guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of the records obtained. Hence, third-party sources are useful for beginning an online search for an arrest record. If any of the aforementioned options fail, consider contacting the local authorities in the jurisdiction where the arrest happened.
How Long Do Arrests Stay on Your Record in West Virginia?
Indefinitely. Arrests typically stay on record permanently unless the subject files for an expungement. Generally, arrests can be expunged if the individual was not charged or convicted, or if the individual was convicted, the sentence was later reversed, or they received a pardon. However, most US states have established retention schedules that determine the length of time an arrest record remains accessible to the public. Hence, if the arrest didn't occur in West Virginia, their records will likely be removed following the expiry of the retention period.
Expunge an Arrest Record in West Virginia
The West Virginia judiciary provides instructions for applying for an expungement of arrest/criminal records in the state. It is possible to apply for the expungement of arrests for misdemeanor and felony offenses in West Virginia. However, the individual must qualify to apply, and the offense in question must be eligible for expungement. Although it is possible to apply for an expungement as a self-represented petitioner, it is advisable to employ the services of an experienced criminal law attorney.
The process of applying for an arrest record expungement in West Virginia typically involves:
- Obtaining copies of the criminal record (which contains the arrests)
- Reviewing the criminal record for arrests that are eligible for sealing or expungement
- Complete the necessary court forms
- File the completed form at the Circuit Court
- Pay the service fees
- Attend the court date if required.
The first step in requesting an expungement is obtaining copies of the criminal record containing the arrests. The criminal record, also known as a "record of arrests and prosecution" or rap sheet, includes a chronological history of a person's arrests and the outcomes. The West Virginia State Police is the custodian of criminal records, but a requestor must apply through an authorized vendor. After getting the criminal record, review the arrests for eligibility. Misdemeanor or felony offenses are not eligible for expungement if they violate W. Va. Code §61-11-26(c). Consult the expungement instruction sheet for a detailed description of these offenses.
The petitioner must complete the appropriate expungement motion form if an arrest is eligible for expungement. Then, the individual must file the completed form at the Clerk's Office in the Circuit Court of competent jurisdiction. Generally, this is the court in the jurisdiction where the arrest happened. If the petitioner has arrests in different counties, they must complete and submit a separate application to each county. Furthermore, the petitioner must pay the applicable fees—a $200 filing fee and a $100 processing fee paid to the West Virginia State Police. It is possible to obtain a waiver for these fees, but the petitioner must contact the Clerk's Office to request one.
In certain cases, the court may schedule a hearing before deciding the expungement petition. This usually happens when a victim or the prosecutor's office challenges the petition. If the petition is successful, the court will serve the record custodian with an expungement order. When this happens, the record custodian will destroy the associated documents, and they will no longer be available. Persons whose expungement petition is denied must appeal the ruling within 30 days.
How Do I Find Recent Arrests in West Virginia?
West Virginia Regional Jail Authority publishes a log of recent arrests online. County Sheriff's Offices may also have this information available online or at their office. Interested persons may visit the Sheriff's Office or police department in the judicial district where the arrest occurred to obtain records of recent arrests.
Are West Virginia Arrest Records Free?
Yes. Arrest information accessed from the Regional Jail Authority website is typically free to the public. However, if an individual chooses to visit the Sheriff's Office in person or sends a mail request to obtain arrest records, they may incur service fees. These fees cover the cost of copying or certifying the records.
Inquirers can also obtain a West Virginia arrest record for free by requesting a fee waiver from the record custodian. To obtain a fee waiver, the requestor must directly contact the administrative office of the law enforcement agency in charge of the record. Fee waiver requests are reviewed and granted or denied on a case-by-case basis. To increase the odds of getting a fee waiver, the requestor must demonstrate a financial need or an inability to pay for the arrest record without aid.
Besides law enforcement databases, requesters can obtain free arrest records on third-party repositories. However, most independent providers of public records charge a fee for access to extensive information on their site—usually per search or on a subscription basis.