Virginia Court Records
Virginia Warrant Search
In Virginia, a warrant is an official document authorizing law enforcement officers to arrest or search a person, their property, or things. After a warrant is issued and executed, the executing enforcement agency or peace officers maintain them alongside related judicial and criminal records. Consequently, members of the public can view or request copies of Virginia warrants from city/county police departments or county Sheriff's offices. These records are available to the public provided they are not restricted by statute or court order. Virginia law enforcement agencies offer access to warrants in compliance with the provisions of the Virginia Criminal Procedure. They are issued to protect their executors from civil or criminal liability while carrying out their official functions.
Are Warrants Public Records in Virginia
Yes. The Virginia Public Records Act authorizes all law enforcement agencies to make warrants publicly available to the citizens. A warrant search will provide personal identifying characteristics of the subject, including their name, date of birth, mugshot, charges, height, weight, hair and eye color, last known address, age, sex, race, and issue date.
Virginia law restricts access to certain warrant records or portions of them. For example, warrants issued for juveniles are not open to the public. Additionally, warrant records containing information that might affect ongoing investigations or reveal the identity of confidential sources are redacted before disclosure.
Types of Warrants in Virginia
Virginia law permits judges, magistrates, or other authorized persons to issue different types of warrants in the state. These warrants are issued based on the needs of the requesting law enforcement officer. The different types of warrants available in Virginia are:
- Search warrant: This is a legal document issued by a magistrate or judge based on probable cause authorizing a law enforcement officer to conduct a search of a specific location, object, or thing to aid an official investigation.
- Arrest warrant: This is an order issued by a magistrate or judge that authorizes a law enforcement officer to arrest an individual when there is sufficient proof of criminal involvement.
- Inspection warrant: The VA Code § 19.2-393 defines an inspection warrant as a written order issued by a circuit court judge to a state or local official commanding them to enter and conduct an inspection on a property or premises. Inspection warrants ensure the owner of the property and the executing official can determine from the warrant the property or object for which inspection is authorized.
- Bench warrant: This is also called "capias" in Virginia—judges issue bench warrants when a person refuses to appear in court on a scheduled date.
What is a Search Warrant in Virginia?
Virginia law § 19.2-52 permits a judge, magistrate, or any authorized person to issue search warrants if there is sufficient evidence of their involvement in criminal activity. Search warrants are usually issued for the search and seizure of (VA Code § 19.2-53):
- Unlawful sale of things or articles;
- Objects like weapons used in the commission of crime;
- Anyone to be arrested for whom an arrest warrant has been issued;
- Any person, object, or thing constituting evidence of the commission of a crime.
Per VA Code § 19.2-54, law enforcement officers must file an affidavit with a judge or magistrate before a search warrant can be issued. The affidavit must include a description of the place, things, or persons to be searched for, the things or persons to be searched for, and an allegation of the offense about which the search is to be made. It also contains an allegation that the object, thing, or person to be searched constitutes evidence of the commission of the offense and material facts showing that there is probable cause for the issuing of the search warrant. The affidavit can be filed online or by fax. A typical search warrant issued in Virginia must contain:
- The name of the affiant;
- Identify the person to be arrested or state the offense;
- Name or describe the place to be searched;
- Describe the property or person to be searched for;
- If only peace officers and law enforcement agencies can execute the warrant.
Per VA Code § 19.2-56, search warrants are usually executed during the day between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Virginia law does not permit no-knock search warrants. Before searching, the law enforcement officer must give a copy of the search warrant and the affidavit to the person or the owner of the property or premises to be searched. If the owner of the place is absent or if it is unoccupied, the documents will be left within reach of the individual.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Search Warrant?
The average time to get a search warrant in Virginia ranges from a few hours to a few days. Factors like the information's credibility, the judge's availability, and how quickly a probable cause can be established affect the timeframe.
What is an Arrest Warrant in Virginia?
Per VA Code § 19.2-71, a judge, clerk of any court (circuit court, general district court, domestic relations, and juvenile district court), or any magistrate (§ 19.2-26 et seq.) can issue an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant is usually directed to a law enforcement officer, authorizing the apprehension and detention of the subject. It typically contains (VA Code § 19.2-72):
- The name of the accused or a description of the person if the name is unknown;
- A description of offense charges;
- A command that the accused be arrested and brought before the county, city, or town court where the offense was committed;
- The issuing officer's signature.
Per VA Code § 19.2-73.1, a law enforcement officer may notify the accused of the warrant following its issuance. The accused would be directed to appear at the time and place of its execution. In Virginia, a law enforcement officer may execute a warrant issued anywhere in the state within thier jurisdiction. The law enforcement officer executing a warrant must endorse the execution date and return the warrant to a judicial officer. When a person is arrested outside the jurisdiction where they are to be tried, the law enforcement officer can bring the accused before a judge in the locality where the arrest was made or where the charge is to be tried. Another option is to commit the accused to the custody of an officer from the locality where the charge is to be tried, who will bring the accused before a judge in that county or city. The judge is expected to conduct a bail hearing immediately and either release the accused on bail or send the person to jail for transfer to the locality where they will be tried.
Arrest Warrant Lookup in Virginia
Law enforcement agencies are custodians of arrest warrants. Therefore, individuals can conduct arrest warrant lookup at the issuing or executing agency's office. Typically, requesters may find arrest warrants at the following agencies:
- City or County Police Departments: Individuals can find arrest warrants online or in person at City or County Police Departments. Online requesters should note that warrant information can be tagged in names like "Most Wanted," Warrant list, or Active Outstanding Warrants. For example, the Danville Police Department provides access to warrant information online or in person during office hours. Most police departments do not discuss warrant information over the phone.
- County Sheriff's Office: The most common method of conducting arrest warrant lookup at the county sheriff's office is online. Most offices publish the names of the most wanted persons on their websites to ensure public safety. For example, the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office provides a Most Wanted list of individuals for whom arrest warrants have been issued. Individuals can also conduct arrest warrant lookups in person or submit public record requests. However, the requestor will need to contact the custodian's office for information on how these searches are processed in the jurisdiction.
- Circuit Courts: Individuals can visit their city or circuit court in person to request their arrest warrants. All visitations must be done during regular business hours. An ID is usually required to conduct a search.
- Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC): Individuals can find arrest warrant information online on the VDOC website. Go to the homepage and click the General Public menu at the top bar. Navigate to the left navigation menu and click the Most Wanted link to view arrest warrant information.
Alternatively, requesters can visit the VDOC during business hours to request arrest warrant records.
- Virginia State Police (VSP): The VSP disseminates criminal history records by mail as governed by VA Code §19.2-389. These records typically contain warrant information. A Criminal History Records Check SP-167 or SP-230 would be required to initiate the request.
How to Find Out If You Have a Warrant in Virginia
Individuals can find out if an arrest warrant has been issued in their name by visiting the nearest police precinct or Sheriff's Office to make inquiries. The staff would ask for a name or the date the warrant was issued to process the request. Most law enforcement agencies have warrant lists (also called most wanted lists) on their websites, where individuals can find warrants issued in their names. For example, Chesterfield County residents can visit the Police Department's website to view Active Warrants. Similarly, the York County Sheriff's Office has a Wanted Persons list where individuals can determine if a warrant has been issued in their name. Individuals might be able to obtain warrants by mail or in person at the Circuit Court Criminal Department in the city or county where they reside.
Free Warrant Search in Virginia
Record seekers can conduct free warrant searches online in Virginia. Most law enforcement agencies have warrant lists on their website that can be used to view warrant information for free. For example, the Newport News Police Department allows record seekers to view Active Warrants in their custody at no cost.
How to Find Out If Someone Has A Warrant Online
Individuals can visit their city or county police department or sheriff's office website to determine if someone has a warrant. These agencies usually publish warrant lists on their websites. For example, the Roanoke County Police Department publishes an Outstanding Warrant List on its website, which is updated periodically. The list is in Adobe format and may be searched by last name. Similarly, the Goochland County Sheriff's Office provides a Most Wanted list that can be used to find someone who has a warrant.
Interested individuals can also find warrant information on third-party online portals. The search criteria are first name, last name, and state. More information may be required to narrow the search. A small fee may be required to complete the search.
How Long Do Warrants Last in Virginia?
The duration of a warrant in Virginia varies by warrant type. All warrants not executed before expiration are considered void in the state. Per VA Code § 19.2-56, all search warrants must be executed within 15 days after issuance. Inspection warrants are valid for ten (10) days unless renewed or extended by the judge who signed and issued them (VA Code § 19.2-395).