When performing a criminal background check, Virginia makes searching public and criminal records not only easy but fast as well.
State agencies allow VA criminal records searches for both employers and individuals through a variety of sources, including online portals, databases, and physical requests.
What Is the Central Criminal Records Exchange (CCRE)?
In many jurisdictions, public information such as arrests (and those without convictions) and pending court case records are normally handled by the county clerk or the county clerk of the courts. However, when conducting a criminal background check, Virginia has a slightly different way of keeping and accessing these public records so that anyone can access information to find recent arrests.
Virginia utilizes a system called the Central Criminal Records Exchange or CCRE. The CCRE works as both an online database for criminal history information as well as the custodian of police records for the state. Keep in mind that the CCRE can only be used by criminal justice entities, but that doesn’t mean that individuals can’t use it. It just means that there is a separate system that is used for pre-employment, tenant and volunteer background checks.
For non-criminal justice entities, the Civil and Applicants Record Exchange (CARE) is used.
Related reading: do dismissed charges show up on a background check.
Using the Criminal Records Exchange to Get Virginia Criminal Records
Finding criminal record information on individuals in Virginia can be a reasonably simple and speedy process. Although the central criminal records exchange is easy and quick to use, the database does not contain all criminal history information for the state.
Instead, the CCRE only contains more extreme criminal violations. Most of the records contained within the CCRE are as follows.
- Felony Offenses
- Class I Misdemeanors (With exceptions)
- Class II Misdemeanors (With exceptions)
There are also other criminal charges that are housed in this database, but the offenses above make up the bulk of the records in the database. Exceptions for misdemeanors include:
- Driving while intoxicated
- Disorderly conduct
Crimes that involve the committing of the above misdemeanors will not be included in the CCRE. Records on arrests involving these misdemeanors and any lower level offenses are generally held by the police department that was involved in the case. Information on how to access these records is outlined below.
Accessing Records in the Civil and Applicant Records Exchange (CARE)
For non-criminal justice entities, the Civil and Applicant Records Exchange (CARE) operates as part of the CCRE, but is used for civilian purposes. Most often, CARE is used to conduct criminal history records checks for employment purposes, as part of a pre-employment background check.
There are three main methods outlined by the Virginia State Police to obtain a criminal history records check in the state. Each with different results, for different entities, and requiring a different form to be submitted to the VSPD.
SP – 167
A criminal history records check that is completed using form (SP-167) is the method that should be used by individuals and private companies that are seeking criminal history record checks for employment purposes. This is the form that most individuals will use to conduct their criminal history background checks.
SP – 230
A criminal history records check that is completed using form (SP-230) is the method that should be used by entities and facilities that are licensed through the Virginia Department of Health or Social Services, and cannot be used by individuals. This is the only type of criminal history check offered by the Virginia State Police that does not require notarization.
SP – 325
A criminal history records check using form (SP – 325) is a fingerprint-based criminal history check. Whilst the other two criminal history check options are strictly name based, the SP – 325 check is fingerprint based and thus more thorough that a typical name based check.
This type of check is commonly used for screening employees that would be working with protected groups such as children or the elderly. This type of check is less common in Virginia, but is legally required to be passed for certain jobs.
Completing a Criminal Background Check Search Form
The completion of a criminal background check search for employment purposes is a simple two-step process.
The process involves filling out a simple online form in addition to a printed form that must be filled out, notarized and mailed to the Virginia State Police. Keep in mind that the completion of this form only authorizes a state-based background check, meaning it will not turn up convictions from out of state.
This name-based check also only turns up convictions on the individual being searched. A fingerprint-based search is required to obtain information on charges, pending charges, and dismissals. Detailed steps are outlined below.
Step 1. Navigate to the Virginia State Police Department website and click ‘criminal record check’
The necessary forms can be accessed through the Virginia State Police Department website. On the top of the screen, simply click the ‘services’ drop down menu and select ‘criminal record check’. Doing so will bring a page with information on the Civil and Applicant Records Exchange.
Step 2. Select the correct form
For individuals seeking a pre-employment background check, the SP-167 form is the correct form. Underneath the ‘(1) Criminal History Records Check (SP-167)’ heading is information on the form and it’s uses as well as a link that will take users to the proper form. Click the link that reads ‘Create your SP-167 request to be printed for mailing to the Virginia State Police’
Step 3. Complete the provided form.
Following the proper link will take users to the non-criminal justice interface page. On this page a form with basic information regarding who the search is on and who is requesting the criminal history records check. Simply fill out all the required fields, being sure to select the payment method that will be used when mailing the form for the next step.
Step 4. Confirm information and generate SP-167 form.
When all the information for the online form has been completed and confirmed, simply click ‘generate’. This will generate the SP-167 form as a PDF which can be printed and filled out by hand.
Step 5. Complete the form.
The next to last step is to complete the SP-167 form. Be sure to fill out all required fields of the form. Keep in mind that signatures on the form must be notarized, so be careful not to complete any signatures without the involvement of a licensed notary. Virginia State Police recommends a service called Notarycam for online notary services.
More information on Notarycam is available at the top of the CARE page.
Step 6. Mail the completed form with payment
Finally, the SP-167 form must be mailed to the Virginia State Police Department office. The address is as follows:
Virginia State Police
Civil and Applicants Record Exchange
P.O. Box 85076
Richmond, Virginia 23285
When mailing the form, be sure to the selected payment method chosen on the initial online form. The cost of a SP-167 criminal history record check is $15.00.
For individuals that require a comprehensive criminal background check, Virginia also provides the means for a fingerprint based check. Simply attach a completed fingerprint card to the SP-167 form.
Once the form has been mailed, individuals can expect to receive results up to 15 business days after the form was received by the Virginia State Police.
When the background check is completed the results will be sent to the individual that requested the check, as well as any criminal records that were found as part of the check.
Get Virginia Criminal Records by Mail, or In Person
Aside from using the CARE there are a number of other options to obtain criminal records in Virginia. The two main ways to do this are through the courts where the hearing for the committed crime took place, or through the police department involved with the committed crime.
For information involving sex crimes, the sex offender registry can also be searched through the Virginia State Police department website.
Detailed steps for each method are outlined below.
Obtaining Records Through Virginia Courts
In Virginia, each individual court should have access to records involving cases heard in that court. Unfortunately, each court has different methods for obtaining these records and the fees involved with obtaining copies.
Virginia courts are required to retain the records of any and all criminal cases that were heard in that specific court. However, the courts are only required to maintain these records for 10 years from the date the case was heard.
Although it is possible to obtain records through the court of a case that was heard more than 10 years ago, there is a possibility that the court no longer maintains those records. Whether or not records older than 10 years can be accessed through the court is on a case by case basis.
Recently, the Virginia Court System launched a state-wide searchable database for any criminal and traffic case information. Although there are certain cases that are not searchable in the database, individuals searching for court records should begin their search with this database. Detailed steps on using the new online database are outlined below.
Step 1. Navigate to the Virginia Court System website.
This page will house information regarding a variety of information regarding Virginia Courts such as contact information, case status information and more.
Step 2. Navigate to the Online Case Information System.
Underneath the heading ‘Case Status Information.’ is a link to the searchable database that is known as the Online Case Information System. Simply click the blue highlighted link to access the system.
Step 3. Agree to the disclaimer, and perform a search.
When the disclaimer has been read, click agree at the bottom of the page to generate the search form. Here, individuals can enter information about the name of the individuals involved in the case and where the case was heard. Enter in as much information as possible and select ‘search’. Search results will be available immediately.
If there are no search results returned, the best plan of action is to contact the clerk of the court where the case was heard. The clerk of the court will be able to find the records in question, or explain why those records are not available to the public.
Obtaining Records Through Police Departments in Virginia
Another viable option for obtaining criminal history record information in Virginia is to contact the police department involved with the case. Keep in mind that Virginia police departments can only give out criminal history information about a specific individual to that individual. Those seeking criminal history information on someone other than themselves should try the other methods listed above.
Detailed steps for obtaining criminal history record information from a local police department in Virginia are outlined below.
Step 1. Contact the local police department.
The form required to conduct a criminal history records search by a police department can only be completed in person. However, the records specialist at the police department can tell individuals if they have access to the records being sought. It’s important to call first to ensure that the police department has access to the requested records. The records specialist will also notify individuals of any paperwork or identification that is needed to access those records.
Step 2. Complete a request for criminal history information form.
Once it is confirmed that the police department has the records in question, individuals must go to the police department headquarters and fill out a “request for criminal history information form’. This form will be provided by the records specialist. The form can be filled out and returned to the specialist immediately. A fee is also required to perform the search; the fee is generally around $10 but can vary by department.
Step 3. Await results.
The search is generally done immediately and results should be made available by the records specialist within a few minutes. The records specialist will provide the individual that made the request with a copy of the results.
Sex Offender Registry
The Virginia Sex Offender Registry can also be searched online (the Texas sex offender registry guide shows the process more in-depth as the two states are very similar). Although this search will not turn up complete criminal history information on a person, it can still be a useful tool when performing various background checks. Detailed steps on how to perform a search of the Virginia sex offender registry is outlined below.
Step 1. Navigate to the Virginia State Police Sex Offender Registry Search.
The search can be accessed through the Virginia State Police website and is linked above.
Step 2. Perform the search.
The sex offender search has a variety of options for how individual wish to perform their search. The following options can be used to perform a search
- Search by name (using someone’s middle name is highly recommended to improve results)
- Search by zip code
- Search by address
- Search by county
- Search by city
- Search by school
Search results should be available immediately. Keep in mind that should a registered sex offender move into a different are without notifying the state of Virginia, the information provided by the search may be inaccurate.
What Does Virginia Criminal History Information Include?
Criminal history information obtained in the state of Virginia contains largely the same information that similar checks include in other states. What shows up on the check depends on what kind of search was performed. The following information will be returned for checks using a SP-167 form that does NOT include a completed fingerprint card.
- Personal Information such as name, gender, address
- Convictions in the state of Virginia
For a strictly name based criminal background check Virginia, that is run through the Virginia State Police, only convictions within the state will be returned to the requester. If the SP-167 form is accompanied by a fingerprint card, the following information will be included in addition to conviction records.
- Arrest records
- Sex offender registry search results
- Outstanding warrants
- Criminal charges
- Pending charges
Keep in mind that a SP -167 search through the VSPD will only turn up information in the state of Virginia. For criminal history record information that occurred outside the state of Virginia, an FBI background check will be required.
Finally, it should be noted that a federal warrant search requires a separate process entirely.
How Long Does a Criminal Record Check Take In Virginia (VA)?
How long it takes for a criminal background check (Virginia), depends on the kind of search being conducted. In general if the a check was completed using the SP – 167 form through the Virginia State Police, individuals can expect two to three weeks from the time the form was mailed.
The Virginia State Police gives a 15 business day window from the time the request is received.
Level 2 checks that search national records as well as checks that involve federal agencies such as the FBI will take even longer (related reading: how long does a fingerprint background check take).
How Far Back Do Public Records and Virginia Background Checks Go?
Like many other states, Virginia abides by the 7-year rule, which dictates how far back a background check goes in Virginia. The 7-year rule means that criminal records can not display any information on convictions older than 7 years.
Like many states that follow the 7-year rule, there are exceptions that allow credit reporting agencies to report on convictions that are older than 7 years. In Virginia, these restrictions apply to jobs that pay more than $75,000 per year. In these cases, searches can go back as far as 10 years and CRA’s are free to report on any convictions in this time period.
Although the process can often be somewhat tedious and have a slightly below average turnaround time, obtaining criminal records in Virginia is relatively easy. With various options available, using the resources that are provided by the Virginia State Police Department, when obtaining a criminal background check, Virginia makes the whole process easy and fast.