Public Records Information
Virginia gained its independence in 1776 and was the tenth state to join the union in 1788. The state was one of the original colonies and has a long history in tobacco crops and other farming products. In early years Virginia was a pioneer in iron, coal, stone and agriculture. Present economy benefits from its many military installations, agriculture, technology and natural minerals. The headquarters for the department of defense and the CIA are located in the state of Virginia.
Virginia has over 8.1 million residents in its 95 counties and 39 independent cities. It is the 35th largest state with 42,700 square miles. The legislative body is the Virginia general assembly which consists of the senate, lower house, upper house and house of delegates totaling 140 representatives. It is also the oldest legislative body in North America established in 1619. The governor acts as chief executive with the power of appointment including the organization of the executive branch, controls many of the state finances and operations.
Two years after the federal freedom of information act enacted in 1966, the state of Virginia adopted its own open record laws in 1968. Open records act includes assembly meetings, information and documents. This law keeps the common law state transparent. Prior to the rule, it was up to the individual agency and its administrators to provide the public with its operations and any other information it held. The administrators of the agency would make the determination when and if the records were to be released. The law gives citizens of the state the ability to obtain records within a reasonable time and with few exceptions. However, even with the exceptions, the government still has the burden to show why it should not reveal the information. Freedom of information act requests in Virginia are often made by reporters, students, researchers as well as ordinary citizens.
There is no requirement to show a purpose or reason why the record is being requested. Residents can conduct a background search by requesting a criminal record check from the Virginia state police and get a report of felonies, misdemeanors and other violations. The law extends to any and all government agencies. You can order a birth, death or marriage certificate from the Virginia department of health where a resident will need documents in applications and identity. Attorneys as well as the general public can access Virginia criminal and civil court records of divorces, judgments and liens. A person can request to view or copy court records with the exception where certain personal information would be released and jeopardize and individual’s identity security.
Virginia Court Information
Virginia district courts are the state's trial courts with jurisdiction to hear cases involving tort, contract, real property rights from $0 to $15,000, mental health and small claims in Fairfax County. These courts also hear support, custody, interstate support and other miscellaneous domestic relations matters. Criminal district courts hear felony, misdemeanor and domestic violence cases, exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases involving DWI or DUI, ordinance violations, traffic and parking violations. Juvenile division has exclusive jurisdiction and hold venue for preliminary hearings.
Circuit courts have jurisdiction over torts, contracts, real property rights from $4,500 and up, mental health, administrative agency appeals, miscellaneous civil, civil appeals from trial courts, estate, ordinance violations, domestic relations, felony and misdemeanor cases, criminal appeals.
State courts of appeal have mandatory jurisdiction over certain civil, administrative agency, some original proceeding cases. These courts have discretionary jurisdiction in non-capital criminal cases.
The state’s highest court is the Virginia Supreme court, which has mandatory jurisdiction in capital criminal, criminal, administrative agency, and disciplinary cases. The supreme court has discretionary jurisdiction in civil, non-capital criminal, administrative agency, juvenile, disciplinary, original proceeding and interlocutory decision cases.
Virginia Public Records Questions and Answers