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West Virginia Court Records

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What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in West Virginia

According to the West Virginia Constitution, defendants accused of crimes against the state have the fundamental constitutional right to speedy trials and a defense counsel to help navigate the state’s criminal justice process. When facing criminal charges, having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney is essential for the defense. If the defendant cannot afford a legal representative, the court shall appoint legal counsel to represent the individual.

Consequently, the judge or jury decides if the defendant committed the stated crime based on witness testimonies and evidence presented.

Criminal trials in West Virginia are usually held in West Virginia Circuit Courts, the state’s highest trial courts, and West Virginia’s unified justice system.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases go to Trial in West Virginia

Under Chapter 51 of the West Virginia Code, local state courts provide the West Virginia Supreme Court with statistical data of court cases filed annually across the state. According to the data, there were 43,746 cases filed in state circuit courts in 2019, and 12,021 were criminal case filings. It is deduced that no more than 5% of these cases went to trial, while the other 95% were either dismissed or resolved through plea bargain agreements between the defendants and the State of West Virginia.

When Does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

Defendants accused of crimes and misdemeanors punishable by incarceration are entitled to a criminal trial after being charged with a crime. They can demand a trial in writing within 20 days after the initial appearance before the Magistrate or Circuit court Judge.

According to state laws, criminal defendants can demand that the matter be tried publicly, without delay by a jury of 12 individuals, in the county where the alleged offense was committed.

What are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in West Virginia

According to the West Virginia Trial Court Rules and Rules of Criminal Procedure, the stages involved in a criminal trial include:

  • Presentation of a statement of facts and potential witnesses
  • Jury selection
  • Opening statement
  • Direct and cross-examination of witnesses
  • Presentation of evidence
  • Closing argument
  • Instructions to jury and deliberations
  • Verdict

How Long Does it take For a Case to Go to Trial in West Virginia?

The Speedy Trial Act mandates that the speedy trial time limit in the US should be 70 days from the day the indictment is filed. In West Virginia, all rights to a speedy trial in the state are governed by the State Constitution and Criminal Procedure Rules.

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in West Virginia

Depending on the crime, trials in West Virginia could be decided on a bench or jury trial. In bench trials, a magistrate decides misdemeanor offenses, while a court judge decides felony cases. Regardless of the type of trial, the following is what happens in a criminal trial:

  • Presentation of a statement of facts and potential witnesses

The attorneys of both parties each prepare and present a statement of fact to support their claim. This document will include the details of the potential witnesses, including their addresses.

  • Jury selection and examination

The court and attorneys examine and interview potential jurors. Here, 12 qualified jurors are selected and impaneled, and the trial commences.

  • Opening statement

This marks the beginning of the trial in open court. The prosecuting attorney and the defense make short non-argumentative statements detailing their theories of the case and their evidence. Also, the court may defer the defense attorney’s opening statement on request by the defense counsel until evidence is presented.

  • Cross-examination of witnesses and presentation of evidence

As a general rule in criminal trials, witness testimonies are taken orally in court, unless otherwise provided by the West Virginia Rules of Evidence or other rules adopted by the Supreme Court of Appeal. The attorneys present evidence and question their witnesses to justify their claims. The opposing counsel is also permitted to cross-examine the witnesses and rebut the opposing attorney’s claims.

  • Closing argument

The attorneys summarize their case by reiterating the strongest points to the court or jury. This argument cannot contain new information. It can only use evidence and facts proven in the course of the trial in favor of the case.

  • Instructions to jury and deliberations

After the closing arguments, the judge informs the jury of the laws that apply to the case to guide their decision. The attorneys may also file written requests imploring the court to instruct the jury on the laws outlined in the requests. Afterward, the jury retreats to a deliberating room to decide the verdict.

  • Verdict

The jury’s verdict must be unanimous, presented to the judge, and read in open court.

Can You Be Put on Trial Twice for the Same Crime in West Virginia?

No defendant in West Virginia can be put on trial more than once for the same crime. According to Article 3 of the West Vest Virginia Constitution and the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Federal Constitution, an individual should not be subject to a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction or acquittal.

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in West Virginia

Court records in the state are generated, stored, and disseminated by individual courts. Inquirers may retrieve these records by visiting the court where the case of interest was originally filed. The West Virginia Judicial website includes a map that can aid the location of any court within the state. Additionally, inquirers may access criminal court case information on request from West Virginia’s Criminal Identification Bureau by requesting a criminal background check.

Furthermore, third-party aggregation sites such as westvirginiacourtrecords.us provide extensive access to criminal court case information. Jails and prisons in West Virginia also maintain criminal history records of the inmates incarcerated within them.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in West Virginia

Although not all court records are located online, the West Virginia Judiciary provides a searchable database where interested persons can locate court records over the internet. The available but limited online search portal is the West Virginia State Law Library. Requests for more specific court records have to go through the Clerk of Court at the courthouse where the case was filed.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in West Virginia

Expungement is the legal process of requesting that the court removes or seals all or part of a criminal record from public access. Generally, the state allows the expungement of dismissed charges and criminal conviction records provided that the judge approves it, and all required criteria have been satisfied.

An individual may be eligible for expungement of criminal convictions if the case is a non-violent felony or misdemeanor. However, if there are any pending charges against the individual, expungement will not be possible.

Crimes that are excluded from expungement in the state include:

  • Offenses involving the use of deadly weapons
  • Misdemeanors involving deliberate infliction of bodily injury to a minor or law enforcement official
  • Felonies against an individual, including offenses of sexual nature, child abuse, and murder
  • Domestic assault, violence, and battery
  • Abuse of a disabled adult
  • Driving under the influence of a controlled substance
  • Driving on a suspended license
  • Motor vehicle offenses where the perpetrator holds a commercial driver’s license.

For excluded offenses to be sealed, the individual must receive a full and unrestricted pardon from the state governor. But, even with a pardon, offenses such as treason, sexually motivated offenses, kidnapping, and first-degree murder cannot be expunged (West Virginia Code 5–1–16A)..

  • Waiting Period

Before petitioning the court for an expungement order, the petitioner must fulfill the waiting period of 60 days for dismissed charges, one year for single misdemeanors, two years for multiple misdemeanors, and five years for non-violent felonies. The waiting period may be shorter if the individual completes certification programs approved by the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The petitioner must fulfill all expungement requirements, including displaying exemplary behavior.

  • Filing

To expunge records of criminal convictions, the petitioner is required to file a “Petition for Expungement of Criminal Records.”

Filing for expungement attracts a fee of $200. The petitioner may apply for a fee waiver if payment is impossible.

After filing and all concerned parties have been served, the prosecuting attorney serves the petition on the identified victim in the case. Any interested individual, including the prosecuting attorney or victim, has 30 days to file a Notice of Opposition. If there is no opposition, the court may grant the petition, set a date for a hearing, dismiss the petition without a hearing, request more information from the petitioner, or ask that some errors be addressed.

If the order is granted, all court records and arrest records related to the case will be removed from public view.

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