West Virginia has a population of around 1.8 million, making it the 39th most populated and 29th most densely populated state in the country. The state recorded a 2018 violent crime rate of 2.9 per 1,000 which, despite being higher than its neighbor Virginia’s, is significantly lower than the national rate.
However, West Virginia does have a few unsafe spots, such as Beckley, the state’s most dangerous city, which earned a violent crime rate over three times higher than the statewide rate. West Virginia doesn’t experience a high concentration of arrests, recording the 33rd ranked rate in the nation in 2018.
West Virginia Arrest and Crime Statistics
- In 2018, around 29.2 thousand arrests were made in West Virginia, as reported by 131 law enforcement agencies. Just 496 of these arrests were made of minors under the age of 18.
- The leading identified cause of arrests in the state was drug abuse violations by a considerable margin, resulting in over 6 thousand arrests.
- West Virginia has the 15th highest sex offenders per capita rate in the U.S.
What is a public arrest record?
An arrest record is a report produced by a law enforcement entity after the arrest or apprehension of an individual which contains the details of the incident, the individual’s personal information, and occasionally includes additional information about the individual’s criminal record.
An arrest record is often a key document in a criminal case and may play a significant role in an ensuing trial. The arrest record may remain in the public record for a long time regardless of whether the suspect is ultimately convicted of the crime(s) for which they were initially arrested. This means that it can be accessed by the general public.
What is included in a public arrest record?
- Description of the incident: An arrest record will include a chronological account of the alleged crime produced by the arresting officer that may utilize information provided by first-hand witnesses and/or victims of the alleged crime.
- Date and location of the arrest
- Physical description: The height, weight, hair color, sex, and race of the arrested person, along with other distinguishing characteristics such as tattoos, scars, or birthmarks.
- Personal information: The name, age, date of birth, phone number, address, social security number, and other contact information of the arrested individual, as well as any other names the person may go by.
- Criminal charges filed
- Classification of the crime: Whether the alleged crime is a felony or a misdemeanor.
- Court date
- Police interrogation details
What are the types of charges that may appear on an arrest record?
Generally, charges are classified into three main categories:
- Infraction – An infraction is a minor violation of the law that is regulated at the state level. Punishment for an infraction is typically a fine or a written warning, rather than a jail or prison sentence. Examples of infractions include minor traffic violations, public nuisance offenses, and littering.
- Misdemeanor – A misdemeanor is a crime that is more serious than an infraction, but less severe than a felony, and generally punishable by a term of imprisonment of less than a year, or a term of probation. An individual convicted of a misdemeanor is more likely to serve time in a county or local jail than a federal or state prison. Examples of misdemeanors include driving under the influence, most drug abuse violations, and petty theft.
- Felony – A felony is the most serious type of crime and generally results in a term of imprisonment of more than one year in a state or federal prison. Having a felony on one’s record may result in limitations of employment and the acquisition of specialty licenses. Examples of felonies include rape, murder, and arson.
Who can access arrest records?
As in most other states, arrest records (also known as arrest reports) are public records in West Virginia and can be accessed by anyone upon request to a law enforcement agency, and may come up during a routine background check.
Other examples of West Virginia public records include:
- vital records such as birth and death certificates
- marriage licenses
- court records
- voting records
- property records
Where are physical copies of arrest records kept in West Virginia?
Arrest records are typically held by the law enforcement agency responsible for the arrest, usually a local police department or county sheriff’s office. They also may be kept in the archive of a state government agency, or circuit court.
While arrest records may be held in a variety of locations, West Virginia’s central repository of criminal records is maintained by the West Virginia State Police Criminal Identification Bureau.
Why can’t I access an arrest record in West Virginia?
There are a number of reasons why you may not be able to access an arrest record. Although the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires federal agencies to release arrest records and other public records, records that fall under certain exemptions can be withheld from the public.
The FOIA includes nine exemptions that allow agencies to withhold documents, such as arrest records, and not release them to the public. They are:
- The information is classified to protect natural security.
- The information focuses on the internal rules and practices of the agency.
- Another federal law prohibits the release of the information.
- The information includes confidential trade secrets and/or commercial and financial information.
- The information includes privileged, confidential communicative exchanges between two agencies.
- The information could pose a danger to another person’s privacy if released.
- The information is reserved for law enforcement purposes in a court case or an investigation or could reveal a confidential source.
- The information includes confidential information about financial institution supervision.
- The information includes geographical information about wells.
Additionally, some state laws limit the availability of arrest records due to the fact that they are perceived as one-sided documents that do not include the arrested person’s account of the incident.
What is the difference between an arrest record and a criminal record?
Compared to an arrest record, a criminal record is a more thorough document that details an individual’s entire criminal history, including arrest warrants, arrests, third party complaints, convictions, and even dropped cases.
What is the difference between an arrest record and an arrest warrant?
An arrest warrant is a document issued by a judge or magistrate that grants law enforcement the authority to arrest an individual suspected of a crime or to search and seize the individual’s property, whereas an arrest record is a document of an arrest that is only created after an arrest or apprehension has already occurred.
In order for a judge or magistrate to issue an arrest warrant, they must conclude that there is probable cause for an arrest. Probable cause must be backed by sworn testimony or an affidavit that provides sufficient information supporting the need for an arrest. An arrest warrant must also specify one individual that should be arrested, rather than a group of individuals or a rough description of a suspect.
How many Americans have been arrested?
While crime has steadily dropped in the United States over the past several decades, arrests have gone up, particularly for younger age groups. Typically, law enforcement makes around 10 million arrests each year. Here are some key statistics on arrests in the United States:
- In 2018, around 10.3 million arrests were made nationwide.
- 73% of arrested persons in 2018 were males.
- The more recent an American was born, the greater the likelihood that the individual has been arrested at least once. The following is the percentage of Americans in various age groups that have been arrested:
- 6.4% of Americans born before 1949
- 10.7% of Americans born between 1949 and 1958
- 13.8% of Americans born between 1959 and 1968
- 18.7% of Americans born between 1969 and 1978
- 23% of Americans born between 1979-1988
How to search for Arrest Records in West Virginia
West Virginia does not have an online criminal history information search tool available to the general public. Furthermore, you cannot go to the West Virginia State Police Headquarters and request a criminal background check without an appointment.
In order to obtain a criminal record check in the state, you must schedule an appointment with third-party company IdentoGO to have your fingerprints scanned and submitted to the West Virginia State Police. After the scan is complete, you will receive further information on when to expect the results of the criminal background check.
Unlike in many other states, fingerprinting cannot be done at a local law enforcement agency, and all West Virginia background check requests must go through IdentoGO.
Here’s how to schedule an appointment with IdentiGO:
- Visit the IdentoGO website.
- Select Services from the dropdown menu in the right-hand corner.
- Type in your zip code or city name under Find an IdentoGO Center.
- Schedule an appointment at a convenient time.
How can I search for a West Virginia arrest record on the internet using a background check service?
Since tracking down physical copies of arrest records can prove challenging, searching for them online is a viable option. There is a wealth of online services that allow you to search and access West Virginia arrest records and other public records via numerous government agency databases in exchange for a fee.
However, despite the fact that users must pay to obtain an arrest record from an online service, it’s nevertheless a convenient means of getting these documents. The offices of government agencies are often marred by inconsistent service and take a long time to process requests to view documents.
Sometimes it’s worth it to pay a fee to use an online background check service, rather than endure the extended delays typical of government offices.
What can I do if my arrest record has a mistake?
If your West Virginia arrest record or criminal history record has incorrect or incomplete information, the West Virginia State Police allows you to submit a challenge in order to have the record corrected.
Follow these steps to submit a challenge:
- Highlight the mistake on a copy of your criminal record or arrest record.
- Download and print a Challenge of Criminal History Record form.
- Complete and sign the form.
- Prepare a cashier’s check or money order for $20 payable to “The Superintendent, West Virginia State Police”.
- Mail the completed form, payment, and a copy of the record with the error to:
West Virginia State Police
Criminal History Section
701 Jefferson Road
South Charleston, WV 25309
If you’re worried that someone you know or love has a criminal record and maybe hiding it from you, run a quick background check online with ArrestRecords.com. Thanks to public records laws, almost all West Virginia arrests, criminal and civil records are available online, as well as comprehensive background checks and secret data. You can even find West Virginia marriage records, secret divorce records as well as birth and death records.
Violent Crime rate
Property Crime rate
Murder Crime rate
Forcible Rape rate
Motor Vehicle Theft rate