West Virginia Court Records
What Are Traffic Violations And Infractions In West Virginia?
The West Virginia traffic laws guide safety and civility among road users in the state. Individuals that disregard these laws commit traffic violations or infractions. Depending on the severity of the violation and the damage involved, the traffic violations may be mere civil infractions or criminal offenses punishable by substantial fines or possible incarceration. Under the West Virginia Court System, traffic violations are handled by the Magistrate and Municipal courts in the state, depending on the jurisdiction where the offense was committed. The West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles, maintains and distributes driving records of residents and citizens of the state. These records document an individual’s history of road usage, including license details, traffic violations, demerit points, pending fines, etc. Individuals are permitted by law to query the department for these records.
What Are Felony Traffic Violations In West Virginia?
Felony traffic violations are considered crimes of high seriousness or severity; according to state laws, they are punishable by confinement in prison. These violations typically occur when the destruction of property or injury/death of an individual is caused by operating a vehicle. Also, an individual may be charged with felony traffic violations when they have consistently broken specific traffic laws or have been continually convicted of misdemeanor offenses.
The most common type of felony traffic violations in West Virginia are aggravated DUI offenses, implying that the individual is a repeat offender. The state punishes repeat offenses more severely than other felony traffic violations. Subsequent felony convictions carry an additional prison sentence of at least five years. There are no statutes of limitations for felony traffic convictions in West Virginia; hence, the state may prosecute suspected individuals without concerns about time limits.
Examples Of Felony Traffic Violations In West Virginia
- Hit and run
- Leaving the scene of an accident in which someone is killed or injured
- Subsequent charges of driving under the influence, especially with a high Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)
- Reckless driving or reckless endangerment
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Driving at excessive speeds
- Endangerment of a minor in the vehicle
- Manslaughter or negligent homicide, if a vehicle was used
- Subsequent charges of reckless driving or DUI related offenses
What Are Traffic Misdemeanors In West Virginia?
Traffic misdemeanors are considered less severe than felony violations. Although they do not typically lead to loss of human life, they usually pose some threat or risk to human life, property, or safety. An individual convicted of a misdemeanor in West Virginia often risks the possibility of being fined and, possibly, incarceration in a local jail.
Unlike most states that categorize misdemeanors and felonies into classes with maximum sentences, West Virginia lawmakers fix misdemeanor penalties based on crime by crime basis, according to article 5, chapter 17c of the West Virginia Code.
Despite being defined by the court’s discretion, the seriousness and penalties of a traffic misdemeanor could be determined by the frequency of the offense. First, misdemeanor convictions are punishable by fines of not more than $100 or by imprisonment of 10 days or less. A second conviction within the same year will be punished with a fine of $200 or imprisonment of not more than 30 days, or both fine and incarceration. A third conviction is usually more severe. It may be punished with a fine of $500, imprisonment of 6months or less, or both fine and imprisonment, depending on the severity of the offense. Subsequent offenses may be charged as a felony.
In addition to fines and probable imprisonment, individuals convicted of traffic misdemeanors may be subjected to the following:
- Temporary loss of driving privileges or total revocation of driving rights
- Community service
- Drug or alcohol counseling
- Installation of an ignition interlock device.
The statute of limitations during which the state must begin criminal prosecution for traffic misdemeanors in West Virginia is one year. All prosecutions brought to the state court after one year will be dismissed.
Examples Of Traffic Misdemeanors In West Virginia
- Reckless driving
- Driving without insurance
- Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI)
- Distracted driving
- Excessive speed or excessive lane changing
Typically, most violations of the West Virginia DUI code may be charged as misdemeanors unless they result in serious bodily injuries or death of other individuals.
What Constitutes A Traffic Infraction In West Virginia?
Traffic infractions are the least serious traffic offenses and non-criminal violations of the state traffic laws. They are usually penalized with traffic fines or tickets. They seldom include any loss of civil rights/privileges or jail time, but they may include other regulatory actions such as the addition of demerit points.
Traffic infractions in the state are typically moving or non-moving violations. Moving violations are the infractions that occur when the vehicle is in motion, while non-moving violations occur when the vehicle is in a place of rest. As a general rule, moving violations carry larger fines and more demerit points on the driver’s record than non-moving violations, which rarely result in points against the individual’s driving record.
Examples of Traffic infractions in West Virginia
- Driving too fast or too slow,
- Operating a vehicle without proper lighting
- Failing to use the turn notification signals
- Ignoring road signs and traffic lights,
- Driving too close to other vehicles,
- Illegal modifications to a vehicle
- Parking in front of a fire hydrant,
- Parking in front of an expired meter
- Parking in a no-parking zone
- Failing to stop or yield
- Seat belt violations.
How Does A Traffic Ticket Work In West Virginia?
Traffic tickets in West Virginia are formal notices issued to road users when they defy state traffic laws. The ticket usually informs traffic offenders of the fines that have been assessed against them for the infringement committed.
In West Virginia, traffic tickets are managed by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Motor Vehicles. The DMV maintains a point system targeted towards promoting highway safety and the civil behavior of road users by monitoring their driving habits.
A traffic offender who has been issued a traffic ticket is assessed points based on the severity of the offense. Hence, too many tickets imply multiple traffic violations and more demerit points, which may lead to a driver’s license suspension.
Most traffic tickets are issued for minor traffic offenses such as infractions. These tickets must be resolved within 180 days of receiving it. The individual has the option of paying the fine or disputing the ticket.
Paying the fine is an admission of guilt and an acceptance of all the penalties that come with the ticket, including the demerit points. If the individual is unable to pay the fine at once, a mitigation hearing could be done in court to reduce the fine or create a fair payment plan.
West Virginia traffic tickets can be paid via mail, online, phone, or in-person to the relevant court in the jurisdiction. If a state police officer issued the ticket, the offender should contact the magistrate court in the county. If a city police officer issued it, the individual might contact the city court. Usually, the tickets contain details of the fine, deadline for payment and the relevant court that should receive the fine,
Lastly, the offender may choose to challenge the ticket in court by pleading “not guilty to the charges to avoid getting points assessed against the driving record. The individual has better chances of success with a traffic ticket lawyer who may be able to navigate the situation better.
Are Driving Records Public In West Virginia?
Yes, West Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act grants members of the public access to most documents and information retained by the government agencies in the state. Hence, the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is mandated by law to release driving records to inquirers on request.
Nonetheless, from September 1997, the release of driving records containing personal information has been restricted by the West Virginia Uniform Motor Vehicle Records Disclosure Act, which is commonly referred to as the Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA).
The act restricts access to personal information from the DMV to individuals that are not " permitted users.” Consequently, the department is mandated by law to determine if a requester is a permitted user before providing records that contain personal identifying details.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a 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 person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How To Find Driving Records In West Virginia?
The West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles maintains and distributes driving records in the state on request. Although the department restricts access to driving records of other individuals, inquirers may order personal driving records with ease online, in-person, or via mail.
Requests for personal driving records can be made at any branch office in person or via mail by providing the following;
- A completed Driving Record Request form
- A copy of state-issued photo identification or the driver’s license
- Contact information and mailing address
- A processing fee. The fee varies if individuals are unable to provide a driver’s license.
If the requester is able to provide a name and license, the processing fee will be $7.50. If not, the individual will pay $8.50 and include the date of birth and social security number.
When requesting driving records of other individuals, a complete Release Authorization form along with the Driving Record Request form will be demanded. Such requests require the record holder’s written consent to be processed by the department.
Also, the department may process requests for records of other individuals if it is made on an organization’s letterhead paper. The company must also provide valid and detailed reasons for the request as provided by the Uniform Motor Vehicles Records Disclosure Act.
Can Traffic Violations And Infractions Be Expunged Or Sealed In West Virginia?
Criminal traffic offenses such as felony traffic violations and traffic misdemeanors may be expunged or sealed in West Virginia, according to the West Virginia Expungement Statutes. To expunge or seal a record is to restrict access to the records such that they will no longer be visible to members of the public.
The following records are eligible for expungement in West Virginia;
- Records of non-convictions or dismissed charges
If all charges against an offender were dismissed or the individual was found “not guilty,” the criminal records documenting the arrest and court proceedings of the case are eligible for expungement.
However, in some situations, despite the dismissal, some charges may not be eligible for expungement. Examples of such situations include;
- If the offender is seeking expungement for DUI charges,
- If the individual has prior felony convictions,
- If the case was dismissed due to mental illness or history of substance abuse, such records are ineligible for expungement under state law.
After eligibility is determined, a qualified individual may file the petition for expungement 60 days after the acquittal or dismissal.
2. Records of traffic felony and misdemeanor convictions
Generally, records of traffic misdemeanors and non-felony convictions are eligible for expungement one year from the conviction date, completion of the court-ordered sentence, or release from supervision. If the individual was convicted of multiple misdemeanors, the records would be eligible for expungement 2 years from the date of the last conviction and release. In the case of non-violent felonies, the individual may qualify for expungement after 5 years from the date of conviction.
3. Records of Pardoned offenders.
The West Virginia Constitution gives the State Governor authority to grant executive pardons or reprieves to offenders after conviction. However, an executive pardon does not automatically erase the individual’s criminal history. Therefore, the offender may petition the court to erase the records of conviction one year after the pardon, and 5 years after the discharge of the sentence.
Traffic violation records that do not qualify for the expungement in West Virginia include:
- Offenses relating to DUIs,
- Driving with revoked or suspended license
- Offenses committed by drivers holding a commercial driver’s license or any offense that violates Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act;
FILING THE PETITION FOR EXPUNGEMENT
Petitions for expungement must be filed in the circuit court that initially handled the case. The West Virginia Judiciary Website provides self-help expungement forms with instructions. The petitioner is required to fill out the appropriate forms, provide documentation of the charges, conviction, and completion of the sentence.
If the case to be expunged was dismissed due to a history of mental illness or substance use, the petitioner will be required to provide documentation of medical history and successful compliance with an approved recovery and counseling program.
After the petition is filed, the court provides a certificate of service. The certificate will be served along with the petition and relevant documents to the following individuals:
- The prosecuting attorney of the county of conviction;
- The superintendent of the State Police
- The executive head of the municipal police department where the offense occurred
- The warden of the institution of confinement
- The chief of any other agency involved in the arrest.
A filing fee of $200.00 is required in advance. Also, if the expungement order is granted, the individual must pay a fee of $100.00 to the records division of the West Virginia State Police for processing the expungement.
According to state laws, traffic offenses involving driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances are ineligible for expungement.
However, In 2010, the West Virginia DUI law enacted, “The West Virginia DUI Deferral Program.” The program allows first-time offenders charged with a DUI offense to have their charges dismissed, and their records eventually expunged.
- The individual must be for a first-time DUI offense with no prior DUI convictions
- The alleged blood alcohol content must be less than.15
- The individual must have no prior records of driver’s license convictions for driving under the influence
- The offender must not hold a commercial driver’s license
- The individual must have obliged to breath testing after an arrest
- Finally, the individual must not be charged with any other offenses in the DUI code, such as driving under the influence with a minor in the car.
Interested individuals must obey a particular process to request the West Virginia DUI Deferral program according to state laws.
After one year has passed from the date of the dismissal by the court and the deferral program was completed, the individual may petition the same trial court for an Order to expunge all related arrest records.