Virginia Public Records: How to Find Public Records in Virginia

Virginia Public Records: How to Find Public Records in Virginia

Thousands of people search for information about lost relatives, ancestors, friends, colleagues,  businesses, and government agencies. 


In Virginia, the government keeps all this information about its history and residents in its archives and online databases. This includes marriage and divorce documents, criminal histories, court records, and ownership documents. 

Furthermore, non-government websites provide most public data in government archives. All you have to do is go to these third-party sites and type in the name and address of the person whose records you seek. 

What are public records in Virginia?

Virginia public records refer to any document created or maintained by state or local government agencies and officials while carrying out their designated duties. 


These documents are public properties and are available for inspection and duplication by interested persons in the state.


Virginia's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes procedures for requesting and retrieving access to all public records in the state. 


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Examples of Virginia public records

Public records in Virginia include: 

● Public contracts and bids
● Environmental and health reports
● Birth and death certificates 
● Budgets and financial reports 
● Criminal records
● State and local tax records 
● Property deeds and land records 
● Government meeting minutes and agendas
● Campaign finance reports 
● Business registration records
● Marriage and divorce records 
● Court records and proceedings 
● Professional licensing records 
● State agency reports and publications
● Lobbyist registration records

This is not an exhaustive list, and many other types of public records are available in Virginia. It is essential to know that the specific rules and requirements for accessing and obtaining these records vary depending on the agency. 

What are the common types of public records in Virginia?

Below are the most common types of public records in Virginia and the information they contain: 

Virginia Vital Records

This includes birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce decrees. 

Virginia Property Records

This includes deeds, mortgage documents, land surveys, and property tax assessments. 

Virginia Court Records

This includes civil court filings, criminal court filings, judgments, and court orders. 

Virginia Criminal Records

This includes police reports, accident reports, arrest records, jail records, and incident reports.

Virginia Government Records

This includes meeting minutes, agendas, policies, procedures, activities, and other administrative documents.

Virginia Business Records

This includes business registration documents, licenses, permits, and other legal filings.


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Virginia public records law exemptions 

Virginia's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) includes provisions that exempt some records from being disclosed to the general public. These exemptions include: 

● Records containing personal information of residents and government employees, such as medical records and social security numbers 
● Records of ongoing criminal investigations, such as confidential informants and investigative techniques 
● Records detailing communications between attorneys and their clients 
● Records detailing confidential business information such as trade secrets 
● Records relating to incomplete real estate appraisals and evaluations 
● Records containing voter registration information and voting history
● Records containing sensitive information about national security and intelligence 

You can only access this information with a court order or the proper clearance. 

How can I access public records in Virginia?

Follow these steps to access public records in Virginia: 

Step 1: Identify the agency or department with the needed documents. Some of the common locations to find Virginia public records include: 

Virginia Local Government Offices

Public records are maintained at the regional government offices, such as city halls, county offices, and municipal buildings.

Virginia State Agencies

Public records maintained by state agencies can be accessed at their respective offices, such as the Virginia Department of Health or the Virginia Department of Education.

Virginia Courts

Court records are maintained by the Virginia courts and can be accessed at the clerk's office in the court where the documents were filed 

Step 2: Prepare a written request with your name, contact information, and a clear description of your requested records. Try to be as specific as possible about the type of records you seek, including relevant dates or locations.

Step 3: Submit your request to the appropriate agency or department. Many agencies have online forms to submit your request, but you can also send your request by mail or email. Be sure to keep a copy of your request for your records.

Some Virginia state agencies with online databases for public records include: 

● Virginia State Police: It created and maintains an online database of criminal records, including arrest records and conviction records.

● Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Advisory Council: It maintains a general online database of public records available from state agencies.

● Virginia Department of Health: It keeps an online database of birth, death, marriage, and divorce records

● Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles: It keeps an online database of driving records and vehicle registrations.

Step 4: Wait for a response from the state agency. Under Virginia law, agencies must respond to FOIA requests within five business days. The agency may provide you with the records you requested, or they may deny your request in whole or in part. 


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Where are the most common records-keeping Virginia state agencies located? 

Here is the contact information of record custodians of the most common public records in Virginia: 

Virginia Department of Health 

Address: Vital Records, 2001 Maywill St, Richmond, VA 23230
Phone: (804) 662-6200
Online requests: website

Virginia State Police 

Address: Criminal Records Check,  7700 Midlothian Turnpike, North Chesterfield, VA 23235
Phone: (804) 674-2000
Online request: website

Virginia Judiciary Branch

Address: Supreme Court of Virginia, 100 North Ninth Street, Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: (804) 786-6455
Online requests: website 

Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles

Address: Virginia DMV, 2300 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23269
Phone: (804) 497-7100
Online requests: website 

Virginia Department of Taxation 

Address: Property Ownership Records:
Phone: (804) 367-8031
Online  requests: website 

Can anything affect the processing time for finding public records in Virginia? 

Several factors can affect the processing time for retrieving public records for Virginia state agencies. Below are the most common factors: 

● The volume of requests: If you send in many requests, the agency will need more time to process and verify requests before replying. 

● Availability of records: Some records aren't readily available at the state organizations. Give the agency additional time to locate and retrieve the document. 

● Legal limitations: If you request a record that infringes on legal restrictions and the FOIA confidentiality requirements, agencies may request additional review before your application is approved. 

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