History of Virginia - Public Record Laws
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.
VirginiaPublicRecord.com provides residents of Virginia and anyone visiting the site with an extensive directory of government agencies and sources where to obtain records. As department duties and role can vary from state to state, anyone not familiar with Virginia’s agencies can view a list of where records are being held and by which divisions. Free forms with instructions are available to residents by accessing the department’s official website. Electronic services such as online Virginia court case information can be easily found with an extensive web portal.