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West Virginia Court Records

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Are West Virginia Records Public?

Most records created and maintained by government agencies and public bodies in West Virginia are classified as public records. According to the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act, all persons are entitled to access the complete information regarding the actions of the government and those who represent it as public officials. The act defines public records as “any writing including books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics containing information relating to the conduct of public business prepared, owned, and retained by a public body”.

Public records can be obtained by submitting requests to the custodian of the records, which include officers from state, county, and municipal agencies, including executive, legislative, and judicial departments. The law also covers any body created or primarily funded by a state or local authority, such as a department, board, council, or commission.

Who Can Access West Virginia Public Records?

According to the Freedom of Information Act, all persons are entitled to access public records except when expressly provided by law. The Freedom of Information Act defines a person as any natural person, corporation, partnership, firm, or association.

During a record request process, custodians may require requesters to provide valid identification cards or documents to establish their eligibility. Many agencies also provide standardized request forms for open record requests. These forms will have a section with a statement attesting to the requester's right to access the record under the state laws. The section must be signed by the applicant before the form is submitted.

Do I Need to State My Purpose and Use When Requesting Public Records in West Virginia?

No, applicants do not need to give an official statement of purpose for the record when requesting public records in West Virginia. The Freedom of Information Act is structured to foster transparency in government and allows applicants to obtain public records without having to declare a purpose for the record.

What Records are Public in West Virginia?

Under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act, most records created and maintained by government agencies are considered public records, except when exempted by law. This means these public records are available to members of the public for inspection and copying when valid requests are made to the custodian. Public records are available in different formats, including books, tapes, audio and video recordings, maps, photographs, and so on. Examples of records considered public in West Virginia include court records, property records, correctional/criminal records, inmate records, divorce records, and sex offender information.

West Virginia Public Court Records

West Virginia court records are classified as any information and documents that are generated during court activities in the state. The management and maintenance of these records are handled by the clerks of the various courts. Some forms of court record information include affidavits, trial transcripts, motions, judgments, testimonies, depositions, dockets, and orders.

Court records for West Virginia can be obtained by contacting the court clerk from the circuit or district court where the case was filed. Some records can also be accessed via online databases. For example, district court case information for West Virginia can be accessed via the online database search. Court records are generally public unless specifically exempt by statute, such as records involving juveniles and records that are under attorney-client privilege.

West Virginia Public Criminal Records

West Virginia criminal records are the documentation and information created and managed by law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies such as the courts. The West Virginia State Police is in charge of maintaining criminal records at the state level. These records are generated during criminal proceedings and contain details about crimes, arrests, and judgments. Information in criminal records will include names, physical details, crimes committed, jail time, and other documentation from any court proceedings. An individual’s criminal record is usually considered public information except in cases involving juveniles, domestic violence, or mental health.

Residents can request records by forwarding criminal record requests to the West Virginia State Police. The West Virginia circuit and district courts where criminal cases were filed also provide access to criminal records. County sheriffs and jails also provide access to copies of criminal records and information.

To successfully request a criminal record, it is essential to provide adequate information for a search, such as an individual's name, case number, or inmate number.

West Virginia State Police Headquarters

725 Jefferson Road

South Charleston, WV 25309

Criminal Records Section

​Phone: (304) 746-2450

Fax: (304) 746-2294

West Virginia Public Arrest Records

Arrest records for West Virginia show information about an individual and why they were arrested. Arrest records are generally considered public records unless they are exempted under the Freedom of Information Act. Law enforcement in West Virginia, such as the state police and local sheriff’s offices, are responsible for maintaining arrest records in their jurisdiction. To obtain copies of arrest records, residents must provide the custodians with enough information for an accurate search for the record. This includes the individual’s name, booking date, arresting agency, and location.

West Virginia Public Bankruptcy Records

Bankruptcy records in West Virginia refer to the information and documentation filed in relation to bankruptcy cases in the state. The two branches of the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts in West Virginia manage bankruptcy records in the state.

Bankruptcy records typically contain details such as initial petitions, creditors, court orders, and judgment lists. To look up bankruptcy records, requests must contact the U.S. bankruptcy court where the case was filed. They will need to provide details about the case so the record may be located. West Virginia Courts also provide an online case locator to help with record searches.

United States Bankruptcy Court

Northern District of West Virginia

US Bankruptcy Court

Frederick P. Stamp, Jr. Federal Building and United States Courthouse

1125 Chapline Street

Wheeling, WV 26003

Phone: (304) 233-1655

 

US Bankruptcy Court

324 West Main Street

Clarksburg, WV 26301

Phone: (304) 233-1655

 

Southern District of West Virginia-Points of holding court

Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse

110 North Heber Street, Room 271

Beckley, West Virginia 25801

Phone: (304) 253-7402

 

Elizabeth Kee Federal Building

601 Federal Street

Bluefield, West Virginia 24701

 

Robert C. Byrd U.S. Courthouse (All mail should be sent here)

300 Virginia Street East, Room 3200

Charleston, West Virginia 25301

Phone: (304) 347-3003

 

Sidney L. Christie Federal Building

845 Fifth Avenue, Room 336

Huntington, West Virginia 25701

Phone: (304) 525-0375 

 

The Bureau of Fiscal Service 

320 Avery Street, Room 1010

Parkersburg, WV 26101

West Virginia Public Birth Records

Birth records in West Virginia are managed on the state level by the Vital Registration Office of the West Virginia Health Statistics Center. The office contains birth records for people born in West Virginia from 1917 to date. Information found on a West Virginia birth record includes the following:

  • The name of the registrant
  • Sex of the registrant
  • The date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • The father’s name
  • The mother's maiden name
  • The date of filing and certificate number

To obtain a birth record, requesters must submit a completed request form, copy of identification, and required fees to the vital registration office. The vital registration office also accepts requests from walk-in applicants.

West Virginia Vital Registration Office

Room 165

350 Capitol Street

Charleston, WV 25301-3701

Telephone: (304) 558-2931

Fax: (304) 558-8001

Office Hours: Monday - Friday 8:30 - 5:00 Eastern Time

West Virginia Public Death Records

Death Records in West Virginia can be obtained from the West Virginia Health Statistics Center, Vital Registration Office. The information available on a West Virginia death record includes full name, address, age, date and place of death, and immediate cause of death. To obtain public death records in West Virginia, applicants must submit request forms to the West Virginia Vital Registration Office along with the appropriate fee. Death certificates will only be issued to the next of kin of the deceased and individuals who are legally permitted to request one. Death record requests are usually processed within five working days of receiving the request.

West Virginia Public Marriage Records 

Marriages are usually registered at the county clerk’s office, where the marriage license is issued. These clerks are required to forward completed marriage applications to the West Virginia Vital Registration Office. Information found on a marriage certificate will include the names of the couple, the names of their parents, their ages, dates of birth, and places of birth.

To obtain a marriage record in West Virginia, the applicant must fill out the request form, submit it, and pay the appropriate fees. Certified copies of marriage records may be obtained by the registrants, their adult children or grandchildren, their legal representatives, and anyone who can prove a direct and tangible legal interest in the record. Applicants with questions about West Virginia marriage records can contact the Vital Registration Office at (304) 558-2931.

West Virginia Public Divorce Records

West Virginia divorce records become public 50 years after the divorce occurred. A divorce record in the state will contain lots of information, including the name of the couple, the judgment, the date of the divorce, and where it was filed. To obtain divorce court records, applicants must contact the clerk of courts in the circuit courts or family courts where the divorce was filed. They must provide information such as the parties in the divorce, the date, and location of the divorce to enable a quick and accurate search.

Until divorce records become public, only certain authorized persons are eligible to request them. These include the couple named in the record, their immediate family members such as children, and their legal representatives.

West Virginia Public Inmate Records

West Virginia Inmate records are considered public records for accountability purposes and can be requested by anyone who follows the public record request procedures. To look up public inmate records for West Virginia, requesters must contact the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Requesters must provide information for an accurate search, including the inmate’s name, number, or location. The Division of Corrections website also has separate offender search tools for Jails and Prisons.

The information available in an inmate’s public record includes the following: name, photograph, sex, date of birth, race, physical description, booking date, bail type, case numbers, and arresting agency.

West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation

1409 Greenbrier Street, 

Charleston WV 25311

Phone: (304) 558-2036

West Virginia Public Sex Offender Information

Under West Virginia State Code §15-12, the Sex Offender Registration Act permits the release of information about sex offenders who are mandated to register under the law. These records can be accessed online via the state Sex Offender Registry maintained by the West Virginia State Police. Although the information on the registry is released readily to the public, it is in the interest of public safety. Such information is available to help the public take appropriate safety measures and may not be used to harass, threaten, or intimidate offenders in the registry. Any violation of the law is taken seriously and will be investigated by the state police. For any inquiries, residents may contact the registry by calling (304) 746-2133 or e-mailing registry@wvsp.gov.

West Virginia Public Property Records

Property records in West Virginia include titles, leases, mortgages, deeds, maps, property tax information, and assessments. These records are usually maintained by the County Assessors and county clerks in each county. Property records in West Virginia can be obtained by contacting the relevant county assessor’s office or the county clerk’s office. Some of these offices also offer online property search tools that allow residents to look up property records for free. 

What is Exempted Under the West Virginia Public Records Act?

According to section § 29B-1-4 of the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act, certain records are exempt from public disclosure. This simply means that the custodians of these records are not required to disclose them by law. The following records are examples of records exempted from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act in West Virginia:

  • Information of a personal nature, such as that which is kept in medical, personal, and similar files, if disclosure would constitute an unreasonable invasion of privacy
  • Trade secrets such as formulas, processes, patterns, tools, procedures, or production data that is of commercial concern and known or used by only certain individuals who use it to produce or fabricate an article, trade, or service of commercial value
  • Test questions, examination data, and scoring keys used to administer licensing exams, employment tests, or academic examinations
  • Records that involve the detection and investigation of crimes and records maintained for internal use in matters of law enforcement
  • Records identifying undercover investigation activities conducted by state law enforcement and the agencies using them, such as undercover and unmarked vehicles
  • Records, archives, documents, or manuscripts describing the location of undeveloped historic, prehistoric, archaeological, paleontological, and battlefield sites
  • Internal memoranda or letters prepared or received by any public body
  • Computing, telecommunications, and network security records, passwords, security codes, or programs used to respond to or plan against acts of terrorism that may be the subject of a terrorist act

West Virginia does not have an appeal process for denied records. Requests can only challenge the decision in court.

How Do I Find Public Records in West Virginia?

There are a few steps for members of the public to follow when locating public records in West Virginia.

Step 1: Identify the correct agency that maintains the record

To obtain West Virginia public records, the requesters will need to locate and then directly contact the agency in charge of the record or its custodians. For example, to request vital records, contact the Vital Registration Office, while inmate records are available from the West Virginia Department of Correction and Rehabilitation.

Step 2: Prepare adequate information for an accurate search

In general, a submitted record request must provide enough specifics for the record custodian to locate the record in food time. The best way of ensuring this is to provide enough accurate details to find the record. For example, when requesting a birth record, the request should include the registrant’s name, their parents names, date of birth, and location of birth.

Step 3: Submit the request to the agency and pay any required fees

After identifying the correct agency and compiling the required information, it is time to start the request. Contact the records department or custodian of the agency and request the records. Most agencies will have multiple options for public records requests, including in-person requests, mailed requests, telephone requests, email, and fax requests. Some record custodians also have online request forms which can be filled out and submitted via their websites. In-person requests usually have the fastest processing times. On the other hand, mailed and online requests usually take longer. There may also be fees to be paid for any physical copies of the record. It should also be noted that certified and embossed copies will cost more than normal paper copies.

Can I Find Free Public Records in West Virginia Using Third-Party Sites?

It is possible to obtain public records from West Virginia agencies via third-party websites. It should, however, be noted that the availability and accuracy of these records will vary based on several factors. These factors include the type of record, what agency created it, and when it was created. The records on these third-party sites are not verified or endorsed by any official West Virginia government agencies but are collected and compiled from multiple agencies and jurisdictions. Like most public records requests, requesters must provide enough information for an accurate records search. This information may include registrants, names, dates of birth, or identification numbers, depending on the type of record.

How Much Do Public Records Cost in West Virginia?

Under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act, public bodies are allowed to establish reasonable fees for public records. These fees must be calculated to reimburse the public body for reproducing the requested records. Public bodies are not allowed to charge search or retrieval fees based on man-hours spent locating the record as part of their costs in reproducing records. The cost of public records in West Virginia will depend on the type of record and the agency that maintains it. For example, the Office of Vital Registration charges $12 per copy for certified copies of the vital records in its custody.

Waivers and fee reductions during public record requests will vary from agency to agency. The Act itself does not mandate any waivers or reductions for individuals requesting public records. It is advisable to contact the specific agency for information about any discounts or waivers they may offer.

What Happens if I Am Refused a Public Records Request?

In West Virginia, a public records request may be denied for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  • The requested record may be exempted under the Freedom of Information Act
  • The record request may be badly worded, insufficient, overbroad, or vague. In cases like this, the custodian may deny the request and ask the requester for clarification.
  • The request may not have the legal authority to request the record

West Virginia does not have any official appeal process if a public record request has been denied. When a requester receives notification of a denial, they have the opportunity to institute court proceedings for declaratory or injunctive relief. These proceedings must be started in the circuit court of the county where the public body is based.

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West Virginia Public Records