Public records in West Virginia

In West Virginia, all public data and information are alleged accessible to the populace by the State’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Generally, public records are official documents open to assessment and copying by the public. The federal, state, and local governments collect information on activities, communication, finances, actions, officers, employees, citizens, residents, and other organizations. Thus, the law empowers the public to request access to any form of a government document, allowing them to check and obtain copies. 

A wide array of statistics, figures, and particulars is publicly available in West Virginia. However, certain information has restricted access, such as information regarding files on immigration, examination details, private files, and internal police business. Also excluded from public scrutiny are the financial details of many establishments, juvenile logbooks, and other papers that could lead to a privacy breach. There are also some records categorized as accessible to authorized persons. Such documents include adoption records, birth certificates, marriage and divorce certificates. Individuals who wish to assess public records must know if the material they seek is publicly available or exempted from public access by law or accessible to authorized persons.

Court Records in West Virginia

Court records are generally open documents maintained by Court Clerks all over the State. They usually comprise papers and materials concerning all cases filed, tried, and concluded following the judicial process, transcripts, jury details, testimonies and documents, pronouncements, and verdicts. As long as specific papers have no restrictions, the community can access them. The Court Clerks are responsible for maintaining court files and providing accessibility to the public. Locating the exact court location of a case hearing is the first step to finding state court records. People who want to can send their solicitations in writing to the courthouse. Submissions must include the solicitor’s name, address, case number, or any other detail that will facilitate easy document retrieval. Solicitors should also append their telephone number and proof of payment, as courts charge processing fees for these inquiries. Note that some courthouses put in place specialized forms for each request. 

West Virginia does not currently have accessible databases over the internet. However, an interested person may search the website of the State’s Judiciary to ascertain the exact court holding the papers they seek and learn how to get it. The State Law Library also offers a search portal that attends to records requests over the internet. You can peruse some of the State’s law-related documents through the library. However, papers and data provided on this platform are limited. 

Bankruptcy records in West Virginia

West Virginia’s bankruptcy records tell you pretty much all you need to know about persons and business entities who have filed for bankruptcy in the State. According to the law, the FOIA covers bankruptcy records, making them open to anyone. The Bankruptcy District Courts in the State are responsible for managing the State’s bankruptcy information. Bankruptcy records contain account statements and other financial papers of persons or business entities filing for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy data include filer’s assets and liabilities, a list of debtors, a schedule of contracts and agreements, a list of employees owed, and a comprehensive account of the final paycheck. Requestors can access bankruptcy records in the State through:

  • In-person request from the Clerk of Court’s Office. Accessing physical files at the office attracts fees payable through WVNB Payment Form credit or debit cards.
  • Case Management and Electronic Case File (CM/ECF). Requestors can view bankruptcy records for free at public access terminals. Access is only available to CM/ECF login participants for cases closed for more than 12 months or filed before December 1, 2013.
  • Multi-Court Voice Case Information System (McVCIS). This system allows interested parties to call the U.S Bankruptcy Court’s computer on any touch-tone telephone. By dialing the automated toll-free line on (866) 222-8029, you get instructions on using the phone keys to search for cases. However, you can only get information on five debtors per call.
  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Requestors can access bankruptcy records through NARA but must contact the Clerk’s office first to the NARA Bankruptcy Cases Order Form. This system is available for cases filed after March 3, 2003. They are stored electronically and are only accessible by submitting the case order form. Interested entities can send the filled form via email, mails, or fax.
  • Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). This web system grants users access to bankruptcy records for 10 cents per page view upon registration. The PACER Case Locator can help locate the district where the case filing occurred.

Bankruptcy cases are under federal law; only federal courts handle bankruptcy issues. There are two bankruptcy courts in West Virginia: the Southern District and the Northern District of West Virginia.

Vital Records in West Virginia

In West Virginia, the vital records division of the State Department of Health is mainly in charge of keeping essential human data for the State. They keep track of life’s milestones like childbirth, demise, marital unions, and divorce within the State. West Virginia is not an open document location when it comes to personal data like these. To this end, essential personal data become open after 100 years for birth and 50 years for death. You will only get certificates and verified important papers if the document carries your name. You can also get these documents if you are an immediate family member or have legal authority. However, some online databases allow users to peruse duplicated essential data. People who wish to access documents over the internet must offer integral information to aid their search. You can physically ask for these types of files by visiting:

Vital Registration Office

Room 165

350 Capitol Street

Charleston, WV 25301-3701.

Obtaining verified duplicates of essential data will attract some fees. Childbirth, demise, and union certificates in the state cost $12.00 each. The cost for marriage (County) and divorce certificates vary as individuals can get verified duplicates from the Court Clerk at the courthouse of the union or dissolution.

Criminal History Records

Criminal History Records contain information on a person’s arrest, conviction, incarceration, and probation. Law enforcement agencies at different tiers of government maintain malefactor records on an individual. The criminal history record is also called a RAP (Record of Arrest and Prosecution) sheet or police record. This sheet typically contains information such as the offender’s name and aliases, past and present charges, sentences, and offenses. Physical description, age, date of birth, warrants, prison time, fingerprints are also part of the documentation. West Virginia State Police department is in charge of maintaining state-wide criminal records. The public can perform malefactor record searches online or in person. West Virginia’s Corrections and Rehabilitation Division is another option for requestors to check for criminal records. You can search the West Virginia State Police website to run a search for criminal records and information on sex offenders within the State or visit in person at:

West Virginia State Police Headquarters

725 Jefferson Road

South Charleston, WV 25309

Phone (Criminal Records): (304)-746-2450 

Fax: (304)-746-2294

Conclusion

In West Virginia, you can ask for any information in a public office without providing a reason. The custodians of records in state agencies have a mandate to let you view files within a week from request. Bear in mind that some files have restrictions. 

There is no appeal procedure if a custodian denies you access to government-held files. Perhaps, a more senior official with legal authority can grant you access to the files you seek. Distressed requestors may seek relief in court; after all, you are within your legal rights to ask.